Iceland:: Protest at NATO meeting

"Snowballs are lighter than bombs!"

Last Wednesday, the 28 January, a NATO cocktail party was held at the Hilton Nordic in Reykjavik, Iceland. These war-mongers tried, up until the final hour, to hold their meeting place secret in order to avoid protests, which made it more difficult for the demonstrators to mobilise.

But late in the afternoon a message about the meeting was received and the protestors had gathered by 18:30. An hour previously the first protestors had arrived banging pots and pans and holding placards such as “No to NATO” and “NATO murderers” as well as rainbow peace flags.

When the generals arrived at the entrance they were greeted by chants of “NATO murderers” and snowballs flying in the air. The police searched confusedly in panic to locate where the snowballs were being thrown from. The demonstration continued for a long while afterwards.

Around 60 masked police guarded the meeting and it was obvious that the longer the demonstration went on and the colder it got, the more the police wanted to make some arrests, but they didn’t have just cause. After a few hours, when a young man burnt a NATO flag, the police seized their chance and stormed violently in and grabbed the flag from the man’s hands. Another man then rushed forward to retake it resulting in some chaos and the two were arrested.

The police are prone to overreaction at Icelandic protests and it is clear that people are provoked but they do not rise to more than throwing a few snowballs. After another hour or so the protest had shrunk to around 80 people who confused the police by going around the back of the hotel. There, they rallied to shouts denouncing the cocktail party and threw snowballs at the windows. A policeman who had previously acted threateningly ran in with his baton at the ready and for the first time the crowd struck back. More police arrived waving their batons and one person was arrested. The police photographed all the participants in the demonstration in another attempt to rile the crowd. One man says to CWI/ “no matter how provoked the police are by the snowballs they are lightweight compared to NATO’s bombs.”

This was a small demonstration but including participants of all ages: youths, pensioners, children – showing the antiwar movement in Iceland is alive and well. If the meeting hadn’t been surrounded by so much secrecy then the turnout would have been much larger.

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February 2009