From Iceland — Police Accused of Brutality; Destruction of Property

Police Accused of Brutality; Destruction of Property

Published April 17, 2009

Police who raided a squatter’s community on Vatnsstigur on Wednesday are being accused of excessive force, to people and the house itself.
A woman who was arrested at the house told Morgunblaðið that the police who burst into the house were excessively forceful with the residents within the house, and that she was physically assaulted even though she gave the police no resistance. She alleges a policeman slammed her head against a doorjam, resulting in a concussion and a broken tooth. She intends to sue the police for the damages incurred.
As for the houes itself, it has been noted that police spent a great deal of time physically destroying the property, and was observed by many witnesses, among them journalists (video of the action can be seen here). Nikulás Úlfar Másson, chairman of the National Architectural Heritage Board, told reporters that he had received numerous complaints about the destruction of the house. He adds that the police had no permission to destroy the house in question.
The house, which was built in 1901, is one of the oldest houses which the company ÁF wants to tear down in order to build a larger, more modern structure. While Másson admitted there had been no formal campaign to save this particular house, the squatters are among those who have chosen to use direct action in order to protect the old houses. As one witness to the raid told the Grapevine, “These people that were arrested, they don’t have houses, they’re all young people, they’re students. I think it’s very unfair to put them
out on the streets now. And the people are going to be more and more without homes now that the banks are taking houses because of debts.”
Stefán Eiríksson, chief of police for the capital area, told reporters that officers exercised restraint throughout the operation.

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