Police Deny Skin Colour a Factor in Christmas Arrest


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.”

Fifty-Six Percent of Polish Immigrants Have Experienced Hate Speech

Reykjavik from above

The majority of Polish immigrants in Iceland have experienced hate speech in their time living in the country, Kjarninn reports. This was among the findings of a report shared during a conference held by the City of Reykjavík’s Human Rights and Democracy Office on Friday.

Topics addressed at the conference included how best to deal with hate speech, how to ensure that immigrants are included in Icelandic society, and how to support multiculturalism in Iceland.

Poles comprise the largest group of immigrants living in Iceland. According to Statistics Iceland, 20,520 Polish people were living in Iceland as of the beginning of 2021, accounting for 35.9% of all immigrants in the country.

See Also: Calls on Authorities to Tackle Hate Speech

Eyrún Eyþórsdóttir, doctor of anthropology and assistant professor in police science, was among the speakers at Friday’s conference. She explained that not much data has yet been gathered on hate crimes in Iceland, but in the course of her research, she has conducted interviews with victims as well as an extensive survey amongst Polish immigrants in Iceland last year.

Almost 1,000 Polish immigrants responded to Eyrún’s online survey. Roughly 2% had experienced physical violence as a result of their origins, while 56% of respondents had experienced hate speech. A large proportion of those who had experienced hate speech had done so on multiple occasions.

See Also: Prejudice Just Below the Surface in Iceland, Says Prime Minister

Eyrún said that freedom of speech was often cited as a justification for hate speech. She also noted that destruction of property was common and that perpetrators often knew their victims, and were connected via shared neighbourhoods or workplaces.

María Rún Bjarnadóttir, Director Internet Safety at National Commissioner of Police, shared data that indicated that Iceland lags behind neighbouring Nordic countries in this area. To wit, people in Iceland have experienced more hateful remarks, harassment, and/or threats than in people in Norway in the past twelve months. People in Iceland have also had more difficulty responding to hate speech and have done much less to respond to hateful comments or harassment online.

Four young women aged 16 – 19 who go by Antirasistarnir, The Antiracists, and hold a forum for people of color on Instagram also spoke at Friday’s conference. Anna Sonde, Kristín Reynisdóttir, Valgerður Kehinde Reynisdóttir, and Johanna Haile recently received an entrepreneurial award for their efforts to educate people about racism and discrimination in Iceland. Along with describing the experiences of people of colour growing up in Iceland and the lack of diversity education in the country, the women highlighted the importance of acknowledging that racism is a problem in the first place. Solutions must be found not only for existing problems, said the Antiracists, but also methods of preventing these problems in the first place.

“If You Are Black Or Brown: Please Leave This Town!” Racist Sticker Demands

A racist sticker was affixed to the mirror of an Icelandic family’s car in Snæfellsnes this week, RÚV reports.

Magnús Secka, who is an Icelander of colour, and his mother Sara Magnúsdóttir were travelling around the Snaefellsnes peninsula last weekend and returned to their car to find a sticker adhered to one of the rearview mirrors of their car reading, in English, “If you are black or brown: please leave this town!”

The experience was all the more upsetting because of Magnús’ family’s deep ties to the area. “We own land in Snæfellsnes,” he said. He and his mother met at the Vegamót café and then spent the day sightseeing in the area. When they returned to the café to pick up Magnús’ car, they found the sticker, which also included the url for a racist American website. “I didn’t let it get to me,” said Magnús, “but Mom was angry.” Magnús said this was the first time he’d experienced racism firsthand in Iceland.

Sara shared a photo of the sticker in a Facebook post, which drew considerable outcry and has been shared 1,000 times since. Mother and son have not as of writing made an official report to police about the event and Magnús doesn’t expect that they will. “We hope that this was just an isolated incident.”

Discuss Racism in Iceland via Björk’s Instagram Page

Icelandic musician Björk’s Instagram account will host a live discussion in English on racism in Iceland at 6.00pm GMT tonight. The discussion will be held by Chanel Björk Sturludóttir and Diana Rós Hạhn Breckmann, two Icelanders of mixed origin, and will focus on “how the BLM movement has had an impact here too,” according to a post on Björk’s Instagram.


Chanel produced a radio show for Iceland’s National Broadcaster RÚV last year called Íslenska mannflóran focusing on Icelanders of mixed origin and deconstructing the concepts of nationality, race, and multiculturalism. She is also a co-founder of Hennar rödd (Her Voice), an annual event that creates a platform for women of multicultural ethnicity to share their experiences of Icelandic society. Diana, a fashion stylist, has been vocal against cultural appropriation in fashion.

Over 3,000 people attended a Black Lives Matter solidarity meeting in Reykjavík earlier this month. The event was organised by African Americans living in Iceland. A meeting was also held in Ísafjörður, the Westfjords, on the same day, where some 100 people attended.