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Iceland grieves after police kill a man for the first time in its history
December 5, 2013
It was an unprecedented headline in Iceland this week — a man shot to death by police.
"The nation was in shock. This does not happen in our country," said Thora Arnorsdottir, news editor at RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
She was referring to a 59-year old man who was shot by police on Monday. The man, who started shooting at police when they entered his building, had a history of mental illness.
It’s the first time someone has been killed by armed police in Iceland since it became an independent republic in 1944. Police don’t even carry weapons, usually. Violent crime in Iceland is almost non-existent.
"The nation does not want its police force to carry weapons because it’s dangerous, it’s threatening," Arnorsdottir says. "It’s a part of the culture. Guns are used to go hunting as a sport, but you never see a gun."
In fact, Iceland isn’t anti-gun. In terms of per-capita gun ownership, Iceland ranks 15th in the world. Still, this incident was so rare that neighbors of the man shot were comparing the shooting to a scene from an American film.
The Icelandic police department said officers involved will go through grief counseling. And the police department has already apologized to the family of the man who died — though not necessarily because they did anything wrong.
"I think it’s respectful," Arnorsdottir says, “because no one wants to take another person’s life. “
There are still a number of questions to be answered, including why police didn’t first try to negotiate with man before entering his building.
"A part of the great thing of living in this country is that you can enter parliament and the only thing they ask you to do is to turn off your cellphone, so you don’t disturb the parliamentarians while they’re talking. We do not have armed guards following our prime minister or president. That’s a part of the great thing of living in a peaceful society. We do not want to change that. "
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Photo: Vik Muniz
“I think artists make art and the medium is less of an issue. Instagram pictures tend to be stupid, but then, so did Xeroxes of people’s butts.” The Aperture auction dealt with the problem of showing digital art in a physical space by creating a hybrid of the two. The photos were made using Instagram, but photographers were asked to refrain from publishing them to the app in the interest of preserving the rarity of the image. They were then printed as physical objects in an edition of 1/1. In many ways rarefying photos runs contrary to the spirit of Instagram as an open exchange of images, but nonetheless this a major step in an online direction for fine art photography.” - Janet Borden, Gallery Owner
At the edge of the ancient Gálgahraun lava field, about a 10-minute drive outside Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík, a small group of local environmentalists has made camp among the gnarled volcanic rock, wild moss, and browning grass to protest a new road development that will slice the bucolic landscape into four sections and place a traffic circle in its core. The project, led by the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration and the nearby municipality of Garðabær, will provide a more direct route to and from the tip of the Álftanes peninsula, where the rustic, red-tiled compound of the country’s president and an eponymous hamlet of 2,600 people stand.
The Hraunavinir, or “Friends of the Lava,” believe that any benefits from a project that snakes through Gálgahraun are cancelled out by its cultural and environmental costs. According to protester Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, the thoroughfares would destroy some of the “amazingly beautiful lava formations” and spoil a habitat where birds flock and small plants flourish. One of Iceland’s most famous painters, Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval, once worked on his canvases there, perhaps magnetized by the charm of the terrain’s craggy natural relics.
Read more. [Image: Bob Strong/Reuters]
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