January 21, 2009

Icelandic police fired pepper spray on Tuesday to control protesters demanding that the government resign for overseeing the country’s economic collapse.

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A crowd estimated by police at more than 1,000, some hammering on pots and pans, gathered around the Althing parliament building in the capital Reykjavik.

“About 20 persons have sought assistance from medics, stationed by the Althing, to get treatment after having been sprayed with pepper spray,” Icelandic police chief Sigurbjorn Jonsson told Reuters.

State radio said 20 people had been arrested. Jonsson said police would comment on arrests once the protest was over.

Iceland’s currency plunged and its financial system collapsed in October under the weight of billions of dollars of foreign debts incurred by its banks. The volcanic island’s economy is expected to suffer a huge contraction this year while unemployment, once close to zero, is set to soar.

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