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Is the Icelandic police racist?

Last month a picture of a police officer with patches of known neo-nazi symbols was published in one of the major newspapers, prompting a discussion about racism in the police. The police officer in question claimed they had been given the patches as presents and were not aware of their meaning. Even if this were true, this still leaves the question why someone would give a police officer these patches in the first place and if the Icelandic police is unaware of common symbols of hate groups in general. In response to the incidence an MP of the pirate party suggested that a committee should be established to investigate possible racism within the police. The police were of course outraged at the suggestion.

Earlier this year the police acquired a van for the purpose of better border control on harbours around the Reykjavik area. As this was in the middle of covid and the usual cruise ships were not visiting Iceland this year (good riddance) they decided that this van can also be used to drive around Reykjavik and stop cars with (and I quote) "Romanian looking" people in it and, well, frisk them.

Last year in march refugees protested their conditions in the refugee shelters and the drawn out process for asylum on Austurvöllur. During the same time workers who were on strike were also organising pickets and protests around the square. Additionally the kids from Fridays for Future were there every Friday. The refugees were met by 20 police (they themselves were around 30) and pepper sprayed during the peaceful protest. The workers (also around 30) and kids from Friday for Future (around 60) did not encounter any police, as they had adopted a deescalation strategy of plain clothed officers in a car around the corner.

The proposed committee to investigate possible racism within the police has not been established, so whether or not the Icelandic police is racist will remain a mystery.


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