Today a court hearing is taking place against an activist who participated in a sit-in in the ministry of justice last year, more precisely on april 4th 2019.
5 people were arrested that day in total, who all face charges of disobeying police orders.
When the protest took place, the ministry of justice was open for public and the protesters did not go further than into the open entrance of the building. The demand they had to the minister was very simple and fits well into the rigged framework of representative democracy: a meeting with the minister of justice.
A few people who were then seeking international protection in Iceland wanted to meet the minister of justice to discuss how the Icelandic state is treating people who seek international protection. The group had been trying to reach the ears of the minister for months, and it was clear by this time that the minister did not mean to meet them, but was going to continually ignore their pleads.
Before the sit-in, multiple things had been tried: letterwriting, e-mails, a meeting request made and sent in co-operation with the Red Cross, solidarity meetings in Austurvöllur and petition had been handed in, just to name a few things. The sit-in was a peaceful last resort.
One thing that marked this day was the xenophobic behaviour of police, which the protesters were sadly all too familiar with. When asked to speak in english so everyone could understand what they were asking, the police officer Arnar Rúnar Marteinsson, who is quoted in the screenshot below, answered that “in Iceland we speak Icelandic”. When one of the arrested asked that the polcie speak english to him in his cell, the police officer asked why he was in Iceland if he couldn’t speak Icelandic, and left. In the car on the way to the police station an officer told three of the arrested that he would not hesitate to shoot them in the head if he would get the order to do so.
Systematic violence against migrants stretches its batons to other people who stand against this violence. It is a different kind of oppression which is still rooted in the same despise of migrants. It is clear that the main purpose of these charges is to scare people from protesting, from taking a stand against border regimes, racism, xenophobia and deportations.
While homes of migrants burn to the ground, while business owners steal from workers repeatedly and corporations like Samherji and Eimskip continue to follow the lines of post-colonialism with exploitation and lies, the juridical system is busy with harassing migrant workers and charging activists for being impolite and not doing as they are told to, even when they are merely sitting or standing in a public place.
It is good to reflect on what it means for a society when people can not protest without risking arrest and charges for disobeying police, without the police having to have any tenable reasons for the orders given.
For those of you who want to support us in this fight, our biggest stress factor right now is the fines we will have to pay if the court decides to limit the freedom of political expression in this severe manner. Here is our bank account info:
Account number: 0133-26-020574
If we win the case, and charges will be dismissed, all the money will go into legal funds for people seeking international protection here or other kinds of support.