1949 anti-NATO riot in Iceland

The Icelandic NATO riot of 30 March 1949 was prompted by the decision of Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, to join the newly formed NATO, thereby involving Iceland directly in the Cold War, opposing the Soviet Union and re-militarizing the country.

The protesters first convened behind a school in the centre of Reykjavík and then marched on Austurvöllur, a small park in front of the parliament building, where a throng of people had already arrived positioning themselves between the parliament and the rioters, intending to defend it.

At first the demonstrators were calm, but when a leading member of the Socialist Party announced over a loudspeaker that the leader of his party was held hostage inside the Parliament building, things became violent.

Rocks were tossed at the building, some breaking the windows and one narrowly missing the head of the Parliamentary president, until the Reykjavík police force, aided by volunteers from the Independence Party intervened, beating rioters down and eventually launching tear gas grenades at the rioters.

No official estimate exists of the number of participants, but photographic evidence clearly shows that thousands of people were present.

Fighting breaks out between anti- and pro-NATO supporters, and police.
Fighting breaks out between anti- and pro-NATO supporters, and police. The windows of the House of the Althing have been smashed. 30 March 1949.

Aftermath

Policemen in gas masks guard Austurvöllur after dispersing the crowd with tear gas.
Policemen in gas masks guard Austurvöllur after dispersing the crowd with tear gas

The details of this event have largely been obscured by opposing opinions and lack of neutrality in discussion. Despite violent opposition, Iceland's membership in NATO was confirmed.

After the event, protests by anti-NATO activists were commonplace. The left parties in 1950s and 1960s parliamentary elections promised to put an end to the bilateral U.S.-Icelandic Defence Agreement, but dropped these promises after becoming part of the ruling coalitions.[1] The slogan "Iceland out of NATO and the Army out!" ("Ísland úr NATO og herinn burt!") became a part of Icelandic culture. In 1974, the government proposed closing down the Keflavik base, but a petition campaign gathered a quarter of the population's signatures. The government fell out of power, and it was replaced by a decidedly pro-NATO government.[2] On September 30, 2006, the US Navy unilaterally withdrew the last of its military force from Keflavík airport.[1]

In 2016 the United States began preparations to re-occupy the base.[3] In 2017, the United States announced its intention to construct a modern air base on the peninsula.[4]

Gallery

People gather in front of the House of the Althing, March 30th 1949

People gather in front of the House of the Althing.

Police are prepared for trouble in front of the House of the Althing, March 30th 1949.

Police are prepared for trouble in front of the House of the Althing.

Overview over Austurvöllur, in front of the House of the Althing, March 30th 1949.

Overview over Austurvöllur, in front of the House of the Althing

Overview over Austurvöllur and the House of the Althing, March 30th 1949.

Overview over Austurvöllur and the House of the Althing.

Overview over Austurvöllur, Reykjavik Cathedral and the House of the Althing, March 30th 1949.

Overview over Austurvöllur, Reykjavik Cathedral and the House of the Althing.

People gather for a meeting at the old school, by Tjörnin in downtown Reykjavik.

People gather for a meeting at the old school, by Tjörnin in downtown Reykjavik

In the throng in front of the House of the Althing, during anti-NATO protests.

In the throng in front of the House of the Althing during anti-NATO protests.

Fighting breaks out between anti- and pro-NATO supporters, and police.

Fighting breaks out between anti- and pro-NATO supporters, and police. The windows of the House of the Althing have been smashed.

People flee from tear gas unleashed by police.

People flee from tear gas unleashed by police.

Policemen in gas masks guard Austurvöllur after dispersing the crowd with tear gas.

Policemen in gas masks guard Austurvöllur after dispersing the crowd with tear gas.

References

  1. ^ a b Einar Benediktsson. (August 18, 2011). "At Crossroads: Iceland's Defense and Security Relations, 1940-2011". Strategic Studies Institute. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  2. ^ Markham, James M. (1982-03-30). "Iceland's elves are enlisted in anti-NATO effort". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
  3. ^ https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2016/02/us-military-returns-iceland
  4. ^ https://www.airforcetimes.com/flashpoints/2017/12/17/us-plans-200-million-buildup-of-european-air-bases-flanking-russia/

See also

Land, þjóð og tunga

Land, þjóð og tunga (rendered by Gaston Dorren as 'land, folk and tongue' and by Finnur Friðriksson as 'country, nation, language') is an important phrase in Icelandic nationalism. It encapsulates the concept that these three factors (which might be broadly be glossed as geography, genes, and culture) define Iceland as a nation-state. The phrase is particularly noted for the prominence it gives to language in defining Icelandicness, which is not present in all other nationalisms.

Naval Air Station Keflavik

Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF) is a U.S. Navy base at Keflavík International Airport, Iceland. It is located on the Reykjanes peninsula on the south-west portion of the island. Built during World War II by the United States Army as part of its mission to maintain the defense of Iceland and secure northern Atlantic air routes, it served to ferry personnel, equipment, and supplies to Europe. Intended as a temporary wartime base under an agreement with Iceland and the British, US forces withdrew by 1947, but returned in 1951 as the Iceland Defense Force, now operating a NATO base. NASKEF was closed on 8 September 2006 and its facilities taken over by the Icelandic Defence Agency as their primary base until 1 January 2011 when the Agency was abolished and the base handed over to the Icelandic Coast Guard which has since then operated the base. The base is regularly visited by the American military and other NATO allies, for military exercises, NATO Air Policing and other tasks.

In 2017 the United States announced its intention to modify the largest hangar on the airbase in order to house the new Boeing P-8 Poseidon ASW aircraft being introduced.

The Atom Station

The Atom Station (Icelandic: Atómstöðin) is a novel by Icelandic author Halldór Laxness, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955. The initial print run sold out on the day it was published, for the first time in Icelandic history.

Timeline of Reykjavík

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Reykjavík, Iceland.

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