BY KARI GYLFASON
This column is written and edited by the Young Socialists, an international organization of young workers, students, and other youth fighting for socialism. For more information write to: Young Socialists, 3284 23rd St., San Francisco, CA, 94110. Tel: (415) 824-1429. Compuserve:firstname.lastname@example.org
REYKJAVIK, Iceland - More than 100 people gathered outside the U.S. embassy here December 18, protesting the military attacks launched by Washington and London against Iraq.
The action was called by the Young Socialists and supported by other organizations, including the Campaign Against Military Bases, Socialist Organization, and Women's Council for Culture and Peace. Flyers, e-mails, and press releases were sent out to build the demonstration. The protesters demanded the bombings be stopped, Iraq's sovereignty be respected, and the "weapons inspectors" get out, as well as the Icelandic government stop supporting attacks on Iraq. The main radio station, Channel 1, read the press release announcing the demonstration a couple of hours before it took place. When people gathered in front of the embassy, about 20 cops were there with two vans. Two men in civilian clothes began taking photos, and one was videotaping the protest. When asked to identify themselves they refused. One finally answered they were cops.
Speakers at the rally included Sigurdur Haraldsson, a shipyard worker and YS member who is a on the national board of the Campaign Against Military Bases, as well as representatives of the Socialist Organization, Humanist Party, and the Campaign Against Military Bases. The Young Socialists had a book table where five issues of the Militant and a copy of The Communist Manifesto were sold.
During the demonstration police pushed people aside to let a car coming up the street go through. One man who did not understand quickly enough was grabbed and dragged towards the sidewalk.
Ólof Andra Proppe, a YS member who was chairing the protest, pointed out that it was the cops who were taking the pictures.
On December 23, a delegation from the Young Socialists delivered a letter at the Reykjavík City Police Station demanding that the videotapes of the demonstration five days earlier be delivered to them to be destroyed. YS spokesman Haraldsson was quoted on Radio and TV news saying the police had no reason to film the protest except to register who was there, and therefore it was a violation of the right to express political views.
Deputy police chief Geir Jon Thorisson said to the TV Channel 2 reporter it is standard practice to film public events. Over the last two years the police force in Iceland has been reorganizing under June 1996 legislation on the "duties and practice" that gives them more space to operate. One measure the police and some politicians have been advocating is placing surveillance cameras in public places. A few months ago, such cameras were installed in downtown Reykjavík. The newspaper Morgunbladid of December 24 quoted deputy police chief Thorisson saying the police had to be "fully prepared in case of threatening incidents against the embassy," but the protest "turned out to be quite peaceful and therefore there will be no further research of films or other material." In the Dagur newspaper the same day, Thorisson said the state prosecutor or ministry of justice must decide whether the tapes will be destroyed.
The Icelandic government is trying to curtail democratic rights at the same time it attacks the right to free education and health care, drives down the living standards in Iceland, and takes imperialistic measures to safegard the interests of the Icelandic ruling class, such as fishing more out of the neighboring countries' fish stocks and supporting the criminal attack on Iraq. The Young Socialists in Iceland will keep fighting this attack on democratic rights and at the same time draw in other fighters and organizations that are willing to do the same.
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