Hip-hop star Talib Kweli assaulted in Copenhagen

UPDATED: In an interview with The Local, American rap artist Talib Kweli recounted his attack at the hands of "bigots” in Christiania and denied reports that he had violated the self-proclaimed freetown's strict ban on taking photos.

Hip-hop star Talib Kweli assaulted in Copenhagen
Talib Kweli said he was attacked over the colour of his skin. Press photo
Prior to Talib Kweli’s November 26th concert at Copenhagen’s Pumpehuset, the rapper was attacked in Christiania in a racially-motivated incident, he wrote on Instagram. 
“I've been hearing about Danish racism on the rise. I witnessed it firsthand. I was attacked by two bigots last night saying they ‘hate me’ and they didn't even know who I was, they just didn't like the color of my skin. It wasn't an Internet attack, it was physical. I was hit and kicked,” Kweli wrote. 
The artist’s gig went on as scheduled but Kweli said that the incident has definitely coloured his perception of Christiania, the alternative self-proclaimed ‘freetown’ in the heart of Copenhagen that he said he has been visiting for around 15 years. 
“I was introduced to the area by J-Ro of the Alkaholiks, who spends a lot time in Malmö. I recorded my verse for Kanye West's ‘Get Em High’ there. I've researched the place, I know its history. I have great respect for what that community has accomplished. I am not some tourist who obliviously wandered in,” Kweli told The Local. 
Some Instagram users disputed Kweli's claim that the incident was racially motivated and said that the American rapper had been taking photos of the cannabis stalls on Pusher Street, something that has led to numerous assaults before. 
Kweli vehemently denied those reports, telling The Local that he was well aware of Pusher Street's photography ban and that he only briefly had his phone out to take a call before quickly putting it away again. 
“I didn't take any pictures, nor did I attempt to or remotely even look like I was taking any pictures. I took one phone call. My phone was to my ear the entire time,” he said. 
The phone call led to a verbal altercation between two men before Kweli says a third man came out from behind one of the cannabis stalls looking “like he wanted to fight”. 
“The third guy hit me in my face and the rest joined in on the attack. I got into a defensive position and NIKO IS [a fellow rap artist, ed.] was able to back them away from me for enough time for us to walk out of there. My gut reaction was to fight back. But because I was in a foreign country surrounded by guys I didn't know [and] who were obviously set on having an issue with me, I walked away,” Kweli told The Local. 
The rapper said that he couldn’t be certain that the attack was racially motivated as he speculated on his Instagram post but all signs point in that direction.
“The disrespect, the aggression, the yelling of ‘I hate you’ are all consistent with racist physical altercations I've seen first hand. Without having an explanation or cause for the violence, that's the conclusion I arrived at,” he said. 
“What happened to me there was so aggressively over the top violent for no reason, so opposite of what I thought Christiania was, it was hard trying to figure out why,” he added. 
See his full post here: 

Me and @nikohigh walking into Christiania Copenhagen last night. One of my favorite places in the world until last night. I've been hearing about Danish racism on the rise. I witnessed it firsthand. I was attacked by two bigots last night saying they “hate me” and they didn't even know who I was, they just didn't like the color of my skin. It wasn't an Internet attack, it was physical. I was hit and kicked. Thank you to @nikohigh for helping me get out of there. It goes to show you that racism and hate doesn't stop for ppl with money or “celebrity” whatever that means. They stop nothing tho. The show still went on, Copenhagen was a great crowd. Even tho I will never see Christiania the same, a place I once wrote about for a travel blog as utopian, I will always love my fans in Denmark. Your love last night, especially while I was away from family during holiday, only made me stronger.

A photo posted by Talib Kweli (@talibkweli) on Nov 27, 2015 at 3:33am PST



Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.