2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests: Wikis

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Some of the 6000 protesters in front of the Alþingishús, seat of the Icelandic parliament, on 15 November 2008.

The 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests, also referred to as the Kitchenware Revolution occurred and are occurring in the wake of the Icelandic financial crisis. There had been sporadic protests since October 2008 against the Icelandic government's handling of the financial crisis. The protests intensified on 20 January 2009 with thousands of people showing up to protest at the parliament (Althing) in Reykjavik.[1][2][3]

Protesters were calling for the resignation of government officials, and for new elections to be held.[4] The protests have now stopped for the most part with the resignation of the old right-wing government.[5] A new left-wing government has been formed after elections in late April.

Chronology

Hördur Torfason at the second weekly protest, on the 18 October 2008

Concerned with the state of the Icelandic economy, Hördur Torfason staged a one man protest in October 2008. Torfason stood "out on Austurvöllur with an open microphone and invited people to speak".[6] The following Saturday a more organised demonstration occurred, and participants established the Raddir fólksins. The group decided to stage a rally every Saturday until the government stepped down. Torfason led the protest from a stage near the front.[7][8]

On 20 January 2009, the protests intensified into riots. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people clashed with riot police, who used pepper spray and batons, around the building of the parliament (Althing), with at least 20 people being arrested and 20 more needing medical attention for exposure to pepper spray.[2][9] Demonstrators banged pots and honked horns to disrupt the year's first meeting of Prime Minister Geir Haarde and the Althing. Some broke windows of the parliament house, threw skyr and snowballs at the building, and threw smoke bombs into its backyard.[1][2][10] The use of pots and pans saw the local press refer to the event as the "Kitchenware Revolution".[11]

On 21 January 2009, the protests continued in Reykjavík, where the Prime Minister's car was pelted with snowballs, eggs, and cans by demonstrators demanding his resignation.[12][13][14] Government buildings were surrounded by a crowd of at least 3,000 people, pelting them with paint and eggs, and the crowd then moved towards the Althing where one demonstrator climbed the walls and put up a sign that read "Treason due to recklessness is still treason."[12][14] No arrests were reported.

On 22 January 2009, police used tear gas to disperse people on Austurvöllur (the square in front of the Althing), the first such use since the 1949 anti-NATO protest.[15][16] Around 2,000 protesters had surrounded the building since the day before and they hurled fireworks, shoes, toilet paper, rocks, and paving stones at the building and its police guard. Reykjavik police chief Stefán Eiríksson said that they tried to disperse a "hard core" of a "few hundred" with pepper spray before using the tear gas.[3] Eiríksson also commented that the protests were expected to continue, and that this represented a new situation for Iceland.[3]

Despite the announcement on 23 January 2009 of early Parliamentary elections (to be held on 25 April 2009) and the announcement of Prime Minister Geir Haarde that he was withdrawing from politics due to esophageal cancer and would not be a candidate in those elections, protesters continued to fill the streets, calling for a new political scene and for immediate elections;[17] Haarde announced on 26 January 2009 that he would hand in his resignation as PM shortly, after talks with the Social Democratic Alliance on keeping the government intact had failed earlier the same day.[18]

Commentary

Roger Boyes, of The Times argued the protests are part of a "new age of rebellion and riot" in Europe, in the background of similar protests caused by the financial crisis in Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria and the civil unrest in Greece, caused by the police killing a teenager, but also related to the financial crisis.[19]

London School of Economics professor Robert Wade said that Iceland's government would fall within the coming days and Fredrik Erixon of the Brussels-based European Centre for International Political Economy compared the current situation with the French Revolution of 1789.[20]

Eirikur Bergmann, of The Guardian, writes that "While Barack Obama was being sworn in to office on Capitol Hill yesterday, the people of Iceland were starting the first revolution in the history of the republic. The word "revolution" might sound a bit of an overstatement, but given the calm temperament that usually prevails in Icelandic politics, the unfolding events represent, at the very least, a revolution in political activism."[21] Valur Gunnarsson, also of The Guardian, writes that "Iceland's government was last night scrambling to avoid becoming the first administration to be ousted by the global financial crisis." He also writes that "The protesters have begun referring to their daily attempt to oust the government as a 'saucepan revolution', because of the noise-inducing pots and pans brought along to the protests."[22]

References

  1. ^ a b Gunnarsson, Valur (2009-01-21). "Icelandic lawmakers return to work amid protests". Associated Press. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h-RUl6zdfvvmIjYqtmrqj2ROGbXgD95QU1DG0. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  2. ^ a b c "Iceland protesters demand government step down". Reuters. 2009-01-20. http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssBanks/idUSLK69268520090120. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  3. ^ a b c "Icelandic police tear gas protesters". Associated Press. 2009-01-22. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gHkIlEVsda4i3WimogStwsmm2wrgD95S6Q3O0. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  4. ^ "Opposition attempts to call Iceland elections, bypassing PM". icenews.is. 2009-01-22. http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2009/01/22/opposition-attempt-to-call-iceland-elections-bypassing-pm/. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  5. ^ Nyberg, Per (2009-01-26). "Icelandic government falls; asked to stay on". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/01/26/iceland.government/index.html. Retrieved 2009-01-31.  
  6. ^ Alda (February 4, 2009). "We need far more radical changes". http://icelandweatherreport.com/2009/02/we-need-far-more-radical-changes.html. Retrieved 31 March 2009.   Archived 31 March 2009.
  7. ^ Henley, John (1 December 2008). "Iceland has an unlikely new hero". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/01/iceland. Retrieved 31 March 2009.   Archived 31 March 2009.
  8. ^ "Icelanders demand PM resignation, clash with police". Thomson Financial News. 22 November 2008. http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2008/11/22/afx5730408.html. Retrieved 31 March 2009.   Archived 31 March 2009.
  9. ^ "Iceland's capital rocked by protests". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. 2009-01-20. http://www.radionetherlands.nl/news/international/6142952/Icelands-capital-rocked-by-protests. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  10. ^ "Icelanders held over angry demo". BBC. 2009-01-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7842172.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  11. ^ Ian Parker, Letter from Reykjavík, "Lost," The New Yorker, March 9, 2009, p. 39.
  12. ^ a b Waterfield, Bruno (2009-01-21). "Protesters pelt car of Icelandic prime minister". The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/iceland/4308669/Protesters-pelt-car-of-Icelandic-prime-minister.html. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  13. ^ "Protesters pelt Iceland PM's car". BBC. 2009-01-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7843327.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  14. ^ a b "Iceland protests grow, premier vows to stay on". Reuters. 2009-01-21. http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE50L0I120090122. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  15. ^ "Táragasi beitt á Austurvelli" (in Icelandic). mbl.is. 2009-01-22. http://www.mbl.is/mm/frettir/innlent/2009/01/22/taragasi_beitt_a_austurvelli/. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  16. ^ "UN: Myanmar, China pushed high 2008 disaster toll". AP. 2009-01-22. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gqQtTiuZiZJ57H7j-OUQfQQQJufgD95S8DGO0. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  17. ^ McLaughlin, Kim (2009-01-24). "Protesters demand Iceland government quits now". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/reuters/2009/01/24/europe/OUKWD-UK-ICELAND.php. Retrieved 2009-01-31.  
  18. ^ Einarsdottir, Helga Kristin (2009-01-26). "Iceland’s Ruling Coalition Splits Following Protests". Bloomberg.com. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=avntV39aM_7I&refer=europe. Retrieved 2009-01-31.  
  19. ^ Boyes, Roger (2009-01-22). "New age of rebellion and riot stalks Europe". London: The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5563020.ece. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  20. ^ O'neil, Peter (2009-01-23). "European leaders fear civil unrest over economic woes". Ottawa Citizen. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/European+leaders+fear+civil+unrest+over+economic+woes/1210245/story.html. Retrieved 2009-01-31.  
  21. ^ Bergmann, Eirikur (2009-01-21). "The heat is on - Iceland's government is on the point of collapse as angry protesters stake out the parliament in Reykjavik". guardian.co.uk. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/21/iceland-globalrecession. Retrieved 2009-01-31.  
  22. ^ Gunnarsson, Valur (2009-01-22). "Iceland's coalition struggles to survive protests". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/22/iceland-protests-recession. Retrieved 2009-01-31.  
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