Icelandic police will be visibly armed during the upcoming National Day celebrations on June 17, and possibly at other large festivals over summer, reports RÚV. Two to four officers at this weekend’s festivities will also carry Glock 17 pistols, confirmed Police Commissioner Haraldur Johannessen.
It is possible that armed police will also be present at Þjóðhátíð, the widely-attended festival held in Vestmannaeyjar islands during Merchant’s Weekend, which is the first weekend in August, and even perhaps at the Secret Solstice music festival this weekend. In spite of these measures, Haraldur stated that it is not necessary to raise the threat level in Iceland, although he indicated that police are concerned about the possibility that an attack could take place in Iceland in the future. More specifics about this were not provided, however, and Haraldur would not respond to whether or not the police are currently monitoring individuals in the country who have known connections to terrorist organizations abroad.
The decision to station armed police at public events has been met with dismay, criticism, and even some fear by some public figures, as well as members of the public. For instance, after armed police were seen at the Reykjavík Color Run last weekend, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, chairperson of the Left-Green Movement, called for greater transparency in such matters.
Líf Magneudóttir, president of the Reykjavík City council, also spoke out about the issue in an interview with RÚV, saying, “I don’t think this is about increasing people’s safety, and I don’t think that this is going to produce the desired results. This is a change of policy. Up until now, average police officers have not carried weapons, and especially not at such large festivals. I don’t think it makes any sense for us to have armed police at big festivals, especially given that we are a city of peace and have marketed ourselves as such.”
For his part, however, Haraldur emphasized that people shouldn’t be afraid. “I want to tell people that they don’t have to be afraid of the Icelandic police. They are part of the public, they work with the public, and are here to ensure the public’s safety. You don’t have to be afraid of the Icelandic police.”