Between seven and eight thousand people are believed to have demonstrated outside the Althingi parliamentary building on Austurvöllur square in Reykjavík yesterday evening while Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir gave her keynote speech.
Photos by Páll Stefánsson.
The building was fenced off and a number of police officers safeguarded it. Chief Constable Geir Jón Thórisson told Fréttabladid that the demonstration was mostly peaceful.
“There is a totally different atmosphere than in January 2009. There are not violent people on the square; they only want their cause to be heard,” Thórisson commented.
A few protestors were removed from the scene but no one was arrested. Around 30 windows were broken and the parliament was covered in eggs, skyr (an Icelandic dairy product) and had other things hurled at it.
According to Morgunbladid, when MPs drove their cars out of the parliament’s underground car park, rocks were thrown at them. Thórisson said the police couldn’t have prevented it as protestors threw the rocks from a considerable distance.
PM Sigurdardóttir criticized the banks in her speech. She said they had been slow to react in solving the problems of individuals who were about to go into insolvency.
Birna Einarsdóttir, director of Íslandsbanki, dismissed the criticism. “Of course I had wanted these things to happen more quickly but the prime minister is oversimplifying matters by just pointing at the banks,” she told Fréttabladid.
Sigurdardóttir said people will continue to have the right to postpone forced auctions of their homes while their matters are being worked on. She said five ministers have been given the task of reviewing housing and debt issues.
The representatives of the opposition were not pleased with the government in their speeches yesterday.
Chairman of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson said the government had failed in solving the nation’s problems and its leaders must realize that their time is up.
Chairman of the Progressive Party Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson said the wrong policy had been chosen. Yet it is not too late to react, he said, as long as the policy is changed.
Thór Saari of The Movement said the government has no solutions left and that elections must be called for immediately.
According to Morgunbladid, Sigurdardóttir is planning to call the leaders of all political parties to a meeting today to discuss the situation in society in light of the mass protest yesterday. In an interview with RÚV she said MPs must work together on solving the problems of indebted people.
Mark Flanagan, who chairs the International Monetary Fund delegation in Iceland, told Fréttabladid that the government hasn’t properly presented resources for people facing problems regarding their debts.
The IMF’s third review of its economic stabilization program with the Icelandic government says that expectations regarding further write-offs must be downplayed. The government ruled out flat write-offs in its declaration of intent to the IMF.