< SWITCH ME >

The news is getting more shocking every day. Hungary, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia and Ireland are all close to national bankruptcy. Until now, it has seemed that the people are in a sort of “shock and awe” condition. But how long will people stay calm for? “105 days!” That, at least, was the time the people of Iceland were willing to wait – and then they started a revolution.

It had become a habit. Every Saturday, up to three thousand Icelanders gathered at Austursvöllur, the city centre of Reykjavik, in front of Althing, the Parliament Building. Their aim: get the government to resign. The very government which had led the whole country into the worst crisis of its history, the very government which seemed to be helplessly seeking solutions without finding any.

"The people were angry, they were disappointed, but they were also very tired."

January the 17th was the 101st day since the government had proclaimed the collapse of the Icelandic economy. It was the fifteenth time the people had come together for their habitual, peaceful Saturday protest and it was the 15th time that the masses had dispersed without any reaction from the government.

The people were angry, they were disappointed, but they were also very tired. It seemed that the strategy of the government – wait and see – was working. Every Saturday, fewer people appeared. The voices of protest softened and hope for change began to evaporate. But things were to turn out differently.

Photo: Benedict Sicheneder
Jon Bjarki Magnusson

Recently, Jon Bjarki Magnusson’s days have begun with lectures at Reykjavik university. Recently because just a couple of weeks ago the 24-year old was not a student but a journalist. He quit his job because his boss accused him of being a bad employee. Not in journalistic terms, but in political ones.

He wanted to publish an interview with a former Landsbanki manager Sigurjon Arnason in which Arnason was more open about some business topics than he afterwards wanted to be. Unfortunately, Arnason knew the people who owned the newspaper, and that’s why the article never appeared. Jon recorded the conversation in which the chief editor forced him to forget about the story and played it live on Kastljos, a national TV news programme.

The Republic of Iceland

Population: ca. 320.000

Capital: Reykjavik

Folk Hero: Leifur Eiriksson, discoverer of America.

The Republic of Iceland was founded on June 17, 1944. Prior to that Iceland was part of Denmark and subject to the Danish Crown. Before that time Iceland had been an independent state with no king since a settlement in the 870’s. That era is called the Icelandic Commonwealth; its political centre was Althing, founded in 930.

This resulted in a big debate about morals in the media, and Jon became a spokesman for a new civil opposition and - like many others after the economic collapse – started a new life as a student.

On Tuesday the 20th of February, he missed lectures to organise a small protest with the anarchist student association “Öskra” (which means “to shout”) and met up with a dozen students in front of the university to protest against the first parliament meeting of the new year. They didn’t have specific plans; they had not really organised anything. Their only aim was to take things to the next level and make themselves heard.

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