Icelandic protestors cut live transmission of annual party political TV show

On December 31st, we witnessed a unique action here in Iceland. The action worked out perfectly in that we managed to do what we wanted, to disrupt and stop the TV transmission.

Submitted by Aftaka on January 9, 2009

Original article and more photos on Aftaka, Icelandic anarchist website.

On December 31st, we witnessed a unique action here in Iceland. Obviously it was not the all time climax in the history of Icelandic resistance compared e.g. to the 1949 riot, when Iceland joined NATO and people put up heavy resistance in Reykjavík. But first and all, it was a symbol for the waking up which is taking place in the Icelandic society – society that before was completely apathetic. And the action worked out perfectly in that we managed to do what we wanted, to disrupt and stop the TV transmission.

Hundreds of people had gathered by the government’s office, where flares were lit and people marched to Austurvöllur, the square in front of the parliament. The group then gathered by a statue of Jón Sigurðsson, Iceland’s so called independence hero. In few minutes a live TV program called Kryddsílsd, would take place. The program is an annual show where the ministers of the government and the heads of the political parties come together to drink themselves tipsy and talk about the political year that is about to end.

A protest had been widely advertised, where people were encouraged to come with flares and noise-making tools, to interrupt the meeting which was about to take place in a fancy hotel situated bythe same square as the parliament. Very limited security was visible; only one guard from Securitas who stood by a car from the TV station Channel 2. One police van was parked by the parliament.

People were calm to begin with but it was clear from the beginning that the majority was not there to once again stand there impassively holding a protest sign – something more was about to happen. Rotten eggs were thrown in to the windows of the hotel and soon people started making noise and banging heavily on the windows.

But quickly it became clear to us that the politicians were not in the room that turned to the square. They seemed to be hiding somewhere else in a back room. From the Channel 2 van lay lines, under a gate and in to a side door of the hotel. The show had already started and there was nothing to wait for, the group marched to the gate and people started climbing over. Shortly afterwards someone managed to open the gate and the crowd hurried through.

When the door was opened, the protesters met the hotel’s staff and technicians from Channel 2, who all tried to stop the crowd from getting in. Small-scale scuffling took place between the two groups. The protesters were determined to stop the politicians rhetoric. “We have listened for to long time, we do not need to hear any more shit” someone shouted.

By this time the police had been called, and soon the place was full of policemen who formed a heavy wall of leather clad flesh inside the hotel. Still, the foyer was completely filled with people who danced and sang songs against the government. The TV shows audience could clearly hear the protester and looking at the politicians’ faces one could see that they did not feel comfortable.

An angry worker from Channel 2 accused the protesters of having destroyed both the TV show and the protest. “If you would only have stayed outside, the protest could have lasted for two hours, the whole show. But now you have destroyed both the show and the protest,” he said. The crowd applauded - the show was over!

Now the police became more aggressive and threatened to use pepper spray. “This is an illegal protests” said a police officer who always says the same. “The police will use pepper spray” he announced through his megaphone, which was once again held by the usual fat cop in the yellow west.

Immediately people sat down and announced that the group was going nowhere. The police of course became even tenser, it would become humiliating for them to use pepper spray against sitting people, wouldn’t it? The place was crowded with photo and video cameras, which gave people some sort of security. The police here wouldn’t beat anybody here, hopefully.

From that point people stood and sat, sang and chanted. Some people had started tearing at Channel 2’s transmission lines. There just would not be live show today! For a short time the people and the workers fought over the leads until one of them tore it broke apart. Then people moved to the next one, not aware that outside somebody had already set fire to and burned through all of the leads. People seemed to enjoy this game – it is vital not to forget the fun part of resisting.

Now the police had had enough, the last threat about pepper spray sounded through the megaphone from the fat pig in the yellow west. Soon the spray cans were in the air and “Gas, gas, gas” was shouted - history repeated it self (Yes, for some absurd reason the Icelandic police shouts “gas” or “teargas” but give you spray).

Some people were ready for this, put up swimming goggles and other protective gear, while others got the spray straight in their eyes and faces. The situation turned in to chaos, since the policemen were on both sides. People lay on the floor or the ground, blinded by the pepper, so half-sprayed people had to risk going back in to the building to rescue those who were still there.

That was the end of pepper spray action nr. 1.

Now the situation turned in to verbal confrontation in the yard outside. From studying he policemen’s eyes one could sort them in two groups: those who enjoyed the spray and the clubs, and those who really did not want to be in this situation. Some people tried to reason with them, asked them if they did not just want to take of their uniforms and join the public, but of course they did not answer – just like always. This took some time and during this period people both sang and shouted, e.g. the classical “Long finger, long finger, where are you?” And never before have so many fingers been in the air at the same time here in Iceland: “Here I am, here I am, good day, good day, good day!”

Soon the police threatened once again to use pepper spray and this time people reacted by putting their hands in to the air to show that the group was unarmed. Like photographer Helgi Hauksson, has shown with his photos, the police attacked the people with their arms in the air. More eyes got burned this time and people were thrown to and fro until the police had completely emptied the yard.

By this time some ambulances had arrived and both nurse and civilians started helping those who had gotten pepper sprayed. All those people have to be thanked for their work, though the nurses should have been better informed about how to deal with pepper spray.

Now even more policemen turned up, big and heavy they arrived with helmets and other riot gears. They created a police wall and closed the yard. Again people tried to use words against them, but also again the black clad kept completely silent.

One police officer received a stone in his face and broke his chin, but apart from that, no more stones were thrown.

Still, it is not really sure were the stone came from and if it really came from the protesters. Like the media has shown, some people came to the square this day to act against the protesters, shout bad names at them and even physically intimidate them. So it is possible that the stone throwing was supposed to give the protesters some kind of a bad reputation or even that the stone was supposed to hit the crowd of protesters. There was a really short distance between the cops and the people, so the stone could narrowly have missed a protester’s head. Until anything else will be proved, the truth remains unclear.

Now people started to leave the spot, since it was already clear that the TV program had been terminated. Geir H. Haarde, Iceland’s prime minister, was not even able to enter the hotel and now the other politicians had to leave the building by a back entrance. There was no special reason to stay there much longer, the goal had achieved. Later it became public that Rio Tinto Alcan, the aluminium producer that already owns one aluminum smelter in Iceland, had backed out of sponsoring the TV program, because of the action. Channel 2 announced that it had lost couple of million Icelandic Krónur (ISK), by loosing the support from Rio Tinto Alcan.

This action was a great victory and will hopefully lead to even more radical actions here in Iceland.

Three men were arrested, one near to twenty years old, another one around forty and the third one c.a. sixty years old. It is still unclear what was the reason for their arrests but they all had to pay 10.000 ISK to get out the jail later that night. The reason for the payment is also unclear. No one has been charged for anything at this point.

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Photos are from here and here.

Read more about the recent direct actions in Iceland here and here.

Video from a news website can be found here, a video report in English here and photo-show with music and Icelandic text here.