Policemen in gas masks guard Austurvöllur after dispersing the crowd with tear gas; March 30th 1949
The Icelandic NATO riot of 30 March 1949 was prompted by the decision of Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, to join the newly formed NATO, thereby involving Iceland directly in the Cold War, opposing the Soviet Union and re-militarizing the country.
The protesters first convened behind a school in the centre of Reykjavík and then marched on Austurvöllur, a small park in front of the parliament building, where a throng of people had already arrived positioning themselves between the parliament and the rioters, intending to defend it.
At first the demonstrators were calm, but when a leading member of the Socialist Party announced over a loudspeaker that the leader of his party was held hostage inside the Parliament building, things became violent.
Rocks were tossed at the building, some breaking the windows and one narrowly missing the head of the Parliamentary president, until the Reykjavík police force, aided by volunteers from the Independence Party intervened, beating rioters down and eventually launching tear gas grenades at the rioters.