Danish police issue GoPro video of hash market raid

Police in Copenhagen have released video footage of their huge raid on Pusher Street, the open cannabis market in Christiania, the city's hippy enclave.

Danish police issue GoPro video of hash market raid
Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix
The video, shot on GoPro cameras worn by officers, shows young men shouting and pelting the heavily armed riot police with stones.  Police also released photographs of 16 young men who are shown in the coverage. 
“It Is totally unacceptable to attack and injure police officers who are in the process of careful work to get the violent and organized cannabis market in Copenhagen into order,” police commissioner Steffen Thaaning Steffensen said in a press release. 

According to the release several policemen were injured by the stones, one of whom was on sick leave for a month. 
“As well as paving stones, beer bottles, liquor bottles, lighters, metal pipes, rocks, chains, smoke bombs, and even a fold-up stool were thrown,” the statement continued.  Some youth also shot fireworks at the advancing officers. 
The raid on June 17, which has since been followed by two further raids, is controversial in Copenhagen, where a majority support legalising cannabis. 
The raid saw officers tear down 37 cannabis stalls and arrest 18 people. Five kilos of hash, four kilos of marijuana and over 1,000 pre-rolled joints were confiscated. Police also seized 42,000 kroner and found a knife, illegal pepper spray and a large quantity of fireworks. 
After each raid, the market has returned to operation almost immediately. 
Cannabis has been sold in Christiania ever since radical Danes squatted a former military barracks in 1971 in an attempt to create a 'free town', independent of state authority. Sales are estimated to total one billion kroner a year, money that legalization proponents argue currently ends up in the hands of organized criminals. 
Peter Kofod Poulsen from the Danish People’s Party congratulated police on the initiative of using GoPro cameras. 
“We believe it is the right way to get this kind of crime under control, and make it easier to make people accountable for the crimes they commit,” he said.


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.