Aug 08 2009

The Police Roughs Up a Protester – The Media Helps Sustaining the Smear

Yesterday, Friday August 7th, Saving Iceland protested by the Ministry of Industry. At the same time inside the building, a financial contract was signed between the government and Norðurál/Century Aluminum, concerning the latter’s smelter in Helguvík. When the protest was about to end, the police showed up, arrested 5 individuals and aggressively roughed up one of them. Most of the media has spoken about the event but not mentioned the police brutality at all. Instead, the media has unsparingly published the police’s smear about us: that a policeman was kicked in the head and that we threatened the police with iron sticks, without any evidence showing that anything like this ever took place. Saving Iceland rejects these accusations and renounces the media’s one-sided reports.

The contract that was signed today includes state support for the aluminium smelters in the form of a tax discount that amounts to 16,2 million US dollars – two billion Icelandic krónur – and gives Norðurál/Century exemptions from paying industry fees, market fees and electricity safety fees. Special rules will also apply concerning stamp duty and planning fees, and about new taxes. The emission permits that are now valid permit a 150 thousand ton smelter in Helguvík; the Environmental Impact Assessment permits 250 thousand tons, but Century/Norðurál plans to build a 360 thousand ton smelter and today’s contract gives the company the right to do so. (1) The energy for the smelter has not been found and Svandís Svarvarsdóttir, the minister of environment has officially said that enough energy to run the smelter does not exist in the Reykjanes peninsula. (2) At the same time, Katrín Júlíusdóttir, the minister of industry, has agreed with ideas about Landsvirkjun selling energy from the planned dams in Þjórsá river to Helguvík. (3)

Aluminium production is polluting, it destroys ecosystems and kills human and non-human societies. Apart from that, aluminium production is completely unnecessary, since there is already plenty of recyclable aluminium in this world. The aluminium companies that are here in Iceland are saturated with unceasing greed and ruthlessness towards everything or everybody that could possibly stand in the way of financial growth. They are guilty of serious human rights abuses and environmental crimes worldwide. Politicians have systematically dropped their ideals (if they ever had them) for the votes of those who have been deceived by the aluminium industry’s lie-machine and the hope for continuing paychecks.

Therefore, we marched to the Ministry of Industry with green skyr (traditional dairy product used repeatedly in protests) in buckets and a banner that says: “Heavy Industry Profits – Iceland Bleeds”. The skyr was thrown on the minister’s lexus car and on the walls of the building. The banner was put up in front of the ministry. For these actions, people from the group were assaulted; 5 people deprived of their freedom and taken to the police station. A policeman repeatedly roughed up one of those arrested, causing her to have problems breathing, threw her to the ground and, in the end, stood on her. The reaction of those who were there – an attempt to stop the police brutality – evoked in plenty of baton beatings by the police. The media has then actively taken part in the propaganda machine of those who have vested interests in the contract, by putting forth made up accusations. Most of the media has stated that we kicked a policeman’s head and attacked the police with iron sticks and other weapons. Both accusations are are pure lies and expose once again the myth about neutral media in Iceland.

No footage or other types of evidence prove that Saving Iceland did what the media states. It seem like the police’s words – plus a very easily desputed report from a “bystander” – about todays events, are enough for the media to publish what they see as fair coverage about what happened. It is understandable that the media would talk to all those who took part in what happened, but when the police’s words are taken as holy truth, one has to ask for whose interests the media works. The webpage of Morgunblaðið (Iceland’s biggest printed newspaper) e.g. published a news article titled “A policeman kicked in the head”, quoted directly from a police officer, but that shows no evidence to back up these words. A similar story can be told about most of the media.

While working on this kind of biased journalism, the media uses the technique of searching for interlocutors who will tell the story that the media wants, and then edit it for their own convenience. We, Saving Iceland, have in our hands a lot of photos and videos that show clearly that the before mentioned accusations are based on no real arguments. The footage shows a group of people, reacting to their ethical duty to protect a person that is being roughed up.

The truth is that quite a lot of violence took place by the Ministry of Industry today: firstly the way the police handled those arrested and secondly the contract that was signed, which is much more serious than the violence that is wrongfully attributed to us. With this kind of journalism, the media is willfully hiding the real violence. At the same time, it tries to bring out disunion and a lack of solidarity amongst those who have fought with diverse tactics against the heavy industrialization of Iceland. The media has e.g. published news about Ómar Ragnarsson (a well known environmentalist) renouncing the violence which is said to have happened – once again without publishing any evidence proving it took place.

This is certainly not the first time when the media tries to bring up this image of Saving Iceland and others who use direct action in their resistance against the destruction of this planet and capital’s and government’s aggression. In July 2007, RÚV (national TV station) stated that those who took part in Saving Iceland’s actions were getting paid for their participation, even getting bonuses for being arrested. No evidence was used to back it up and even though Saving Iceland’s spokespeople repeatedly denounced RÚV’s lies, the news article was kept unchanged. When Saving Iceland then sued RÚV to the Ethics Committee of the Journalists Association, the committee came to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with this type of journalism. It is highly unlikely that the committee would come to a different conclusion if we would get the idea to take today’s journalism the same direction.

With this letter we upload photos and videos that prove the lies of the police and media. It is not an unfair demand on our behalf that our words and footage gets to the public and will be used in upcoming coverage on the issue. It is our minimum demand to the institution that calls itself the media.

We will upload more videos later.


(1) News article on Smugan,

(2) News article on,

(3) News article on,

A video from the scene: