Police, Protesters, Performance and Trust the Interplay during the "Pots and Pans Revolution" in Iceland 2008-2009

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ingolfur GISLASON, University of Iceland, Iceland
In October 2008 the Icelandic financial system collapsed and soon thereafter protests began. The movement gained momentum and most or all weekends saw mass demonstrations in front of the parliament building and other places in central Reykjavík. In December and January 2009 these protests became more violent with food, rocks and bottles being hurled at governmental buildings and/or the policemen protecting them.

The Icelandic police faced its most difficult task ever during these months, making sure that people could protest but also protecting buildings and members of the government. Very rarely did the police use violence even when facing angry mobs throwing rocks and bottles at it. On January 21st a unique incident took place in front of the main governmental building when some of the protesters broke rank and formed a human shield in front of the police urging other protesters to stop throwing things that could harm the policemen. The other protester very quickly complied. I have interviewed some of the policemen that were on duty during those days, particularly those who stood in front of the governmental building that night. I have also managed to locate and interview five of those who were the first to form the shield. On the basis of these interviews I want to discuss some of the facets of the interplay between protesters and the police and particularly the theatrical part of it. I also want to discuss what it was that the police did that on the one hand made the protesters try to protect it and on the other contributed to the general trust in the police. The police is the only public institution that actually increased its trustworthiness after the crash and is in fact the public institution in Iceland with the highest trust score among the general public.