Demonstration at Police Headquarters on Friday - one arrested
Friday saw a demonstration at the Reykjavik Police Headquarters at Hlemmur. People gathered to protest the armorization of the Icelandic Police. Last week, news broke out that police forces had acquired 250 MP5 submachine guns, among other weapons, from the Norwegian army. The demonstration was organized by a group formed under the banner “Return the guns to Norway”. Demonstrators gathered with a colorful arsenal of water pistols. After playing around with the weapons, the protesters demolished them. According to mbl.is, one demonstrator was arrested.
The figure originally reported proved to be imprecise: the Coast Guard acquired the 250 submachine guns, whereof the police claims it will receive 150. It remains ambiguous whether the weapons were bought or received as a present from Norway. Regardless, according to known figures, the 150 submachine guns almost quadruple the number of such weapons in the hands of Police. Until now, such weapons have only been available to SWAT-teams, whereas the recently acquired weapons are supposed to be at the disposal of all departments. Spokesmen of the Police have said it is up the police authorities in each jurisdiction to decide if the guns will be carried in police cars or kept at stations.
As many locals have perceived the Police somewhat as they like to present themselves internationally, through social media, that is as mainly amiable and somewhat cute, this acquisition of heavy arms has come as something of a shock. It is not yet clear whether Iceland or Norway initiated the exchange. Police authorities and the conservative right have tried to downplay the news, claiming that the Police has always had access to such weapons and that fundamentally nothing is changed by this addition. Chief Superintendent Jon Bjartmarz has spoken on behalf of the police. In RÚV’s Kastljós, he explained that the police forces have had submachine guns “ever since after the Gutto-fight” which took place in 1932, when Police clashed with workers in a struggle over workers’ wages.