Iceland Mag

8 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

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Armed police patrolled the weekend's events in downtown Reykjavík, sparking criticism

By Staff

  • Protecting the public Many felt the presence of armed officers had the opposite effect. In a country where firearms are rarely if ever seen armed officers cause uncertainty and fear among the population. Photo/Stöð 2.

Many Icelanders were shocked to see armed police officers in downtown Reykjavík during the weekend's family celebrations. The local news site Vísir reports that the officers, which were members of the Police Special Forces, were armed with handguns while they patrolled the Color Run on Saturday and the Day of the Sea on Sunday.

Several members of the public, and MPs for the Left Green Movement have criticized the move, arguing it is a violation of Icelandic norms and customs to deploy armed police among the public, and that the authorities should have notified people that armed officers would be present.

A dangerous illusion of safety

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Katrín Jakobsdóttir MPs for the Left Green Movement have criticized the move to deply armed police without notifying the public. Photo/Eyþór

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the chairman of the Left Green Movement, will raise the question at the meeting of the Icelandic National Security Council later today. She told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV that the public had a right to know of decisions like these before hand. The public and the media only learned of the decision when armed officers were spotted walking among the public.

Steinunn Þóra Árnadóttir, an MP for the Left Green Movement also pointed in conversation with the local newspaper Morgunblaðið out that the center-right government had cut funding for the police, arguing that a under-manned but armed police provided a dangerous illusion of safety.

Necessary response to terrorism or an absurd circus

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told RÚV that the decision to deploy armed officers at the Color Run had been taken following the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London in recent days. Police would in coming weeks increase security at events where large numbers of people were present.  

Armed officers

Armed officers An extremely unusual sight in Iceland. Photo/Stöð 2

Several influential commentators have also criticized the decision, and the decision was derided on social media as an absurd example of unnecessary security measures which bordered on being a circus. The local blogger Egill Helgason pointed out that Iceland is the safest country in the world, and that armed police was therefore utterly unnecessary. He asked if police would now show up armed at all public events this summer. 

Egill pointed out that Iceland is so safe and sleepy that one of the largest news stories which broke this weekend was that a single rat was spotted outside downtown Reykjavík.

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