Who Can Afford to Protest?
By Ruth Cape, writing from Tromsø.
With the issue of possessing a right to protest surely being fresh in our collective minds at the moment, the recent case of the ‘Reykjavík 9’ feels particularly poignant. From every corner of the globe injustice in its various guises is being challenged, but time and time again the looming obstacle course of biased judicial systems and unrepresentative governments is standing in the way.
Last month up here in the Arctic Norwegian city of Tromsø, we held an event – paralleled in the UK, USA, France and Germany – in solidarity with the nine Icelandic activists who were accused of attacking the parliament after the economic crisis of 2008.
The nine were up against a highly serious accusation and grossly disproportionate charges; being faced with up to 16 years imprisonment for their action – coinciding with demonstrations joined by thousands of Icelandic residents calling for change to a corrupt parliament – which involved entering the public House of Parliament to read a statement declaring that the house no longer served its purpose.
Such state repression and arbitrary protester-scare tactics are sadly no unique case and feel worryingly prevalent even in the most ‘free-speech’-proud nations.
On February 14th, the ruling for the nine was announced; four found guilty of minor charges, five acquitted. A ruling, in their words “soft enough to tranquillize people’s possible fury but at the same time, tough enough to fulfill the State’s need to punish, cover its shame, and encourage continuing persecution of its political opponents.”
What can be made of this?
The initial sign of relief leaves a bitter taste. These are people who have taken it upon themselves to stand up for justice and the beliefs of thousands, people who are critical of the society and world that they live in, people who ask questions.
They are being answered with the silencing slap of all the consequences of such allegations and fines and legal expenses totalling the equivalent of over £4000.
I hope that this does not have the intended muzzling affect on the nine involved and all who followed the case. I highly doubt that it will. Those who wish to speak out will always find their way however difficult it is made and the more who do, the more such oppressive systems will be forced to realise that a will for justice, integrity and humanity is stronger than any spurious quelling tactics.
That said, we must collaborate and stand together so that we can resist such ‘sit down and shut up’ politics; in doing so, my vision is a world in which all can afford to protest.
Find out more about the RVK9 case.