The decision by Vestmannaeyjar Police Chief Páley Borgþórsdóttir not to provide the media with information about the number of potential sexual assault cases at the Þjóðhátíð festival until investigation is complete, caused musicians to protest yesterday, RÚV reports.
Five bands that were scheduled to appear at Þjóðhátíð sent out a joint statement yesterday afternoon threatening to withdraw their participation unless the local police change their policy regarding the reporting of sexual assaults.
The bands are Retro Stefson, Úlfur Úlfur, Agent Fresco, Emmsjé Gauti and Sturla Atlas.Their statemanet is as follows:
“We are appalled by the reaction of authorities in Vestmannaeyjar to the loud demands of society in recent days. Þjóðhátíð in Vestmannaeyjar is a great festival, but sexual violence should never be hushed up.
Þjóðhátíð, the people of Vestmannaeyjar, and all of us should prevent sexual violence with all possible means.
In light of the rhetoric and approach of the Vestmannaeyjar police chief in recent days, which contradicts the discussion which has taken place in Icelandic society in recent years regarding [the importance of not] hushing up [such crimes], the only option we see in the situation is to withdraw from the schedule of Þjóðhátíð this year unless there is a clear policy change immediately on behalf of municipal authorities and the poice chief.
As performers and artists at this festival, we can’t appear there, knowing that some in our audience will be the victims of sexual abuse if municipal authorities and the Vestmannaeyjar police chief haven’t done all in their power to prevent it.
Our demand is that police authorities in Vestmannaeyjar adapt the policy considered appropriate by Landspítali [National University Hospital] and Stígamót [educating and counseling center for survivors of sexual abuse and violence].”
Last night, the bands Dikta and GKR joined those five bands in their intention to withdraw if a policy change doesn’t occur.
Vestmannaeyjar Mayor Elliði Vignisson states the declaration of the band members is based on misunderstanding. Municipal authorities have nothing to do with the festival or policing. He reported that municipal authorities had spoken with the police chief and been told that all information regarding potential sexual assault cases at Þjóðhátíð would be provided to the media as soon as possible.
“And it’s not clear what they are asking for if that has been declared,” Elliði stated. He said the issue will have to be discussed sensibly, and that it’s everyone’s wish to reduce the number of sexual assaults all over the country all year round.
The Þjóðhátíð committee convened last night to discuss the issue. The committee decided to offer Landspítali and Stígamót to observe the preventive measures, security and response team at Þjóðhátíð.
Yesterday morning, the police chief sent a letter to the media where she stated, “The Vestmannaeyjar police distributes all information regarding their assignments as fast and securely as possible each time. The same approach is used year round and is solely based on the investigative interests and welfare of potential victims. This Merchants’ Weekend [July 29-August 1] all information will be provided as soon as it is deemed that it hurts neither the investigative interests nor the welfare of victims.”
The letter continues, “Discussion about the intention to conceal information regarding sexual assaults or delay its distribution substantially is entirely based on misunderstanding or ignorance.”