Police Deny Skin Colour a Factor in Christmas Arrest Skip to content

Police Deny Skin Colour a Factor in Christmas Arrest

By Steindor Gretar Jonsson

Photo: Police.

28 year old Brian Gona was arrested on his way home from work Christmas Eve, detained in a cell and interrogated for not being able to show his ID card. The incident has prompted the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police to state that they do not arrest anyone for the sole reason of being Black, Heimildin reports.

Mother describes interrogation

Þórunn Helgadóttir, Brian’s stepmother, described the incident in a Facebook post Tuesday. She said Brian, the son of her Kenyan husband, was heading from work to catch a bus at Hlemmur bus station around 18:00 on Christmas Eve when the police stopped him. She said they accused him of lying to them when he told them his name and personal identification number. Instead of driving him to his home in Breiðholt to look at his ID card, Þórunn said the police drove Brian to the Hlemmur police station, confiscated his phone, yelled at him, and denied him water and bathroom access.

Þórunn added that the officers repeatedly asked Brian for permission to search his home for illegal drugs, which he didn’t grant. She said the only plausible reason for their actions is Brian’s skin colour. Þórunn said that when the police finally brought Brian home and looked at his passport, the officers quickly left when they learned he’d been in the country since 2014 and called Þórunn “mum”.

Police say details don’t fit

Superintendent Ásmundur Rúnar Gylfason told Heimildin that Þórunn’s description of events doesn’t match the experience of the police that night. He said that he couldn’t comment on individual cases, but did confirm that a person had been detained Christmas Eve for refusing to reveal their identity. The person had also not been able to confirm who they were with identification. “This individual was detained by police on the basis of a tip that a person had been asleep at the wheel of a stopped car on the East side,” Ásmundur said.

This case, which doesn’t match Þórunn’s description, was the only case of someone being arrested Christmas Eve for theses causes, Ásmundur said. He added that recordings of all communications exist. “And the police is not worried about what they reveal,” Ásmundur said. “The police doesn’t arrest anyone on the sole basis of them being Black.”

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