Police Officers Seek Anonymity Amid Rising Threats

Metropolitan Police

Officers of the law are advocating for increased anonymity in police reports due to rising threats, with incidents like car vandalism and a notable arson attack on an officer’s vehicle. Fjölnir Sæmundsson, Chair of Iceland’s National Police Union, emphasised the need for regulatory changes in an interview with Vísir.

Unparalleled arson attack

Police officers are pushing for anonymity in police reports due to escalating threats during arrests and interrogations. Incidents include tire punctures, car vandalism, and a recent arson attack on a policewoman’s vehicle outside her residence.

The latter incident, being investigated by the district prosecutor as an offence against the government, could lead to a six-year prison term.

In an interview with Vísir, Fjölnir Sæmundsson, Chair of Iceland’s National Police Union (i.e. Landssamband Lögreglumanna), described the case as nearly unparalleled, highlighting the growing intensity of police duties. According to Vísir, the identity of the suspect in the arson case was “quite obvious.”

Threats to officers’ families

“Over the years, there have been several incidents where tyres have been punctured or cars have been scratched or keyed. Then there is the threat: ‘I know where your children go to school or where your wife works.’ People driving conspicuously past a police officer’s house is not unheard of,” Fjölnir told Vísir.

“There is a great demand for anonymity,” Fjölnir continued. “In police reports, officers are identified by name during interrogations, yet in court, we’re referred to solely by our police number. This inconsistency is concerning, especially when reports bearing our full names are accessible,” Fjölnir stated, pointing out that in order for anonymity in police reports to be guaranteed, regulations needed to be amended. Such an amendment was especially urgent as it related to officers investigating organised-crime cases.

Proactive investigative measures

“We’re well aware that organised groups, with ties to countries like Spain, Brazil, and the Baltic nations, are behind a significant proportion of drug imports to Iceland.” Consequently, officers are now prioritising the proactive investigative measures, which, as noted by Vísir, were outlined in a controversial police bill that failed to pass during the last parliamentary session.

“We aim to gather more intelligence to track individuals entering the country and their activities abroad. This will enhance our collaboration and information exchange with international police agencies,” Fjölnir concluded by saying.

Police Intervenes in Efling Strike Outside Fosshótel

Fosshótel strike

The police were called to the Fosshótel hotel in Reykjavík today. Representatives of the hotel accused Efling’s strike guards of threats. The union maintains that the hotel authorities are using force to cover up strike violations.

Efling accuses Íslandshótel of strike violations

This afternoon, the Íslandshótel hotel chain announced that strike guards from the Efling union had threatened non-Efling hotel employees, alongside other employees, who were doing their jobs, RÚV reports. “With this behaviour, Efling has far exceeded normal limits, and in light of the measures, the representatives of Íslandshótel have now decided not to accommodate further visits by representatives of Efling,” a statement by Íslandshótel notes.

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chair of the Efling union, told RÚV that a group of 7-9 people arrived at the Fosshótel hotel at lunchtime in order to monitor the ongoing strikes. The group was prevented from entering the hotel by the hotel staff, who told union representatives that only two people were allowed into the hotel at a time. Sólveig maintained that it was not possible to manage a strike in such a large hotel with only two people. Protests ensued. In a statement from Efling later this afternoon, the union stated that the purpose of the company was “obviously to cover up strike violations,” which Efling’s strike guards witnessed.

The union also accused a security guard of having pushed strikers at Grand Hotel off the premises by force. “The company completely rejects the untruths that Íslandshótel have sent to the media today, that is, that Efling’s strike guards have made unspecified ‘threats.’ This is pure fabrication and typical of the company’s misleading information to its employees and the public over the past week.”

Protests outside Fosshótel

A reporter from RÚV has followed the hotel strikes closely. The reporter stated that a group of about thirty people from the Efling union arrived at the Fosshótel hotel in order to protest. The representatives of the hotel considered these actions a bit extreme. The doors of the hotel were locked, and patrons experienced some difficulty entering the hotel. The hotel staff later called the police.

After negotiations, mediated by the Association of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), five Efling members were allowed to enter the hotel on the condition that the rest of the group left the premises. According to a statement from Íslandshotel, it was not possible to agree to the group’s request for such a large number of strike guards as initially planned, as guests deserved peace and privacy – despite the strikes.

Origin of Horse Head Used for Pagan Curse Still Unknown

Capital-area police are still trying to determine the origin of the severed horse head that was mounted on a stake on the land of a small capital-area community last week, RÚV reports. The grotesque totem, which derives from ancient pagan tradition, is called a nithing pole and is intended to curse the receiver.

See Also: ‘I take it as a threat’: Nithing Pole Erected at Local Commune 

DCI Stella Mjöll Aðalsteinsdóttir says that police have not received any reports of missing horses. Icelandic horses are microchipped, but this is no use to authorities in this instance, either: the head used on the nithing pole was severed above the neck, where its chip would have been located. Police are still awaiting the final report from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), but are conducting their own parallel investigation, which Stella Mjöll said she was unable to comment further on at time of writing.

Animal did not suffer

Police believe it unlikely that the head was taken from a slaughterhouse, as there are strict rules about the disposal of byproducts at such facilities. According to the information that MAST has been able to provide about the animal thus far, the horse was two years old and was killed with a single shot to the head. Sigríður Björnsdóttir, a veterinarian of equine diseases at MAST, noted that the head has not started to rot, which either means that the animal was shot shortly before the nithing pole was erected, or that the head was stored in a refrigerator beforehand.

Under Icelandic law, horse owners are permitted to slaughter their animals without a veterinarian present, as long as it is done correctly. Thankfully, this seems to have been the case with the horse in question. Hallgerður Hauksdóttir, chair of the Animal Welfare Association of Iceland, says the organization will not be investigating the incident themselves, as it does not appear that the animal suffered.

Nithing poles in recent years

As mentioned, nithing poles are used in pagan tradition to curse the receiver. It is only considered a true nithing pole if a horse head is used.

One of the most famous uses of a nithing pole occurs in ch. 60 of Egill’s saga, which was written around 1240 AD, but nithing poles—or symbolic variations thereof—have been erected in Iceland several times in much more recent memory.

The last instance of a real nithing pole being erected was in the Reykjavík suburb of Breiðholt in 2012. In that case, it remains unknown who the pole was intended to curse, or where the horse head was sourced.

In 2006, a farmer in Otradalur in the Westfjords attempted to curse a neighbor using a nithing pole topped with a calf’s head. The man was charged with making a threat on the neighbor’s life.

In 2018, an opponent of salmon farming erected a nithing pole topped with a cod’s head in Bíldudalur in West Iceland.

‘I take it as a threat’: Nithing Pole Erected at Local Commune

A nithing pole topped with the severed head of a horse was erected on the land of a spiritual community known as Sólsetrið in Kjalarnes in the capital area this weekend, RÚV reports. Nithing poles derive from ancient pagan tradition and are erected to curse the receiver. The residents of Sólsetrið have been involved in disputes in recent months, and believe the pole is related to these feuds—or media coverage of them.

Linda Möll runs Sólsetrið as a spiritual community whose practices include cacao ceremonies, singing, dancing, and drumming. The community also holds what have been called “tantric festivals,” and it’s these events that have recently drawn criticism and ire. “That’s the basis for all of this and I respect that,” said Linda Möll in a recent interview. “At the same time, I also respect that I’m an individual who is different, who is approaching life in a different way, is choosing a way of life that perhaps poses another worldview and maybe I can build a bridge to a better world.”

Residents avid equestrians

The underlying threat of the nithing pole did not escape the residents of Sólsetrið, who as avid equestrians, were doubly distressed by the event. “I take this as a threat,” said resident Kristjana Þórarinsdóttir. “That’s just the way it is—there’s no other way to take it. My husband Guðni is the chairman of the national chapter of equestrian associations—how else are we supposed to understand this? We’re horse people and I think if anyone knows Guðni or knows anything about him, the first thing that they’d think of is that he’s a horseman. That’s what characterizes him best and you can’t read this as anything other than a threat,” she concluded. Even so, it’s difficult to say who specifically the threat is directed at: Kristjana and her husband, or Linda Möll and the people she lives with.

After discovering the nithing pole, Kristjana said she rushed up to their stables to make sure that the horse wasn’t one of their own. Luckily, all of her animals are safe, but Kristjana says she’s afraid to return home for now. “I feel ill,” she said. “It’s disgusting.”

Well-publicized feuds

Kristjana also stated that she didn’t think that Linda Möll herself was behind the atrocity; the community’s feuds have been much-discussed of late in the media and she believes anyone could be behind it.

The residents of Sólsetrið are still trying to make sense of the event. “This can’t be because of some neighbor dispute,” Linda Möll concluded. “We could have had this conversation over a cup of cocoa. And who deserves to receive a message like this? I don’t think anyone deserves this.”

Police and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority removed the horse head around noon on Friday and the incident is under investigation.

The nithing pole in the sagas

One of the most famous uses of a nithing pole appears in Egill’s saga (ch. 60, here translated by W. C. Green in 1983):

And when all was ready for sailing, Egil went up into the island. He took in his hand a hazel-pole, and went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a horse’s head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he thus spake: ‘Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse’s head landwards.) This curse I turn also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king Eric and Gunnhilda.’

This spoken, he planted the pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse’s head he turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the whole form of curse.