REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - Thousands of Icelanders marked the 90th anniversary of their nation's sovereignty with angry protest Monday, and several hundred stormed the central bank to demand the ouster of bankers they blame for the country's spectacular economic meltdown.
Tiny Iceland has seen its banks and currency collapse in just a few weeks while prices and unemployment soar -- leaving a country regarded as a model of Scandinavian prosperity in a state of shock.
"The government played roulette and the whole nation has lost," writer Einar Mar Gudmundsson told a noisy but peaceful anti-government rally of several thousand people in downtown Reykjavik.
After the rally, hundreds of protesters stormed the headquarters of Sedlabanki, Iceland's central bank, demanding the sacking of its chief, David Oddsson.
The demonstrators staged an hourlong standoff with shield-wielding riot police inside the bank's lobby, singing songs and chanting "Out with David" and "Power to the People." It ended peacefully when police and protesters agreed to withdraw.
Anti-government protests have been growing larger and angrier since Iceland's three main banks collapsed in October under the weight of huge debts amassed in years of rapid economic growth.
Since then the value of the country's currency, the krona, has plummeted. Iceland has been forced to seek $10 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund and individual countries.
Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde said on Saturday that Iceland's economy would get even worse next year, with a "severe drop" in GDP and rising unemployment.