Twenty individuals were arrested when truckers protested against high gas prices on Sudurlandsvegur highway, connecting Reykjavík and Selfoss, on Wednesday. Police were trying to get the drivers to move their trucks that were blocking traffic.
Police began arresting protestors after they had refused numerous times to move their trucks. Around 60 police officers participated in the operations. They used pepper spray while demonstrators hurled eggs, bottles and stones at the police, Fréttabladid reports.
According to 24 Stundir, one police officer suffered minor injuries when he was hit by a rock. The attacker may, according to Fréttabladid, face up to six years in prison. Dozens of demonstrators that were caught in the cloud of pepper spray sought medical attention.
“I am very sorry that this happened,” Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde told Fréttabladid. “It is not in consistency with Icelandic traditions to solve disputes with violence, but I believe it is necessary that police use the resources they have to protect public safety.”
Sturla Jónsson, spokesperson for professional drivers, blames the scuffle on police. “One officer prevented a truck driver from moving his vehicle and instead wrestled him violently.” Jónsson added the protests are not over and said he is certain the Icelandic nation supports the truck drivers’ cause.
Haarde said truck drivers have gone too far in their protests—which have lasted for weeks—that the public is fed up with their actions and that it was right for the police to take action against them on Wednesday.
“People who behave in such a way and jeopardize public safety cannot expect that they will be negotiated with, so this is not helping their cause,” Haarde said. Truck drivers are demanding the government lowers gas prices.
“Various groups have demands for the government and have a cause to fight for but not everyone can block the traffic by parking large trucks in the street. I think truck drivers are disregarding the causes of other people by their actions,” the prime minister added.
The leaders of the two biggest opposition parties in Iceland’s Althingi parliament, Gudni Ágústsson of the Progressive Party and Steingrímur J. Sigfússon of the Left Greens, have requested that these events be discussed in Althingi’s plenary committee.
Click here to read more about protests organized by truck drivers.