---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 06 Sep 2002 11:51:44 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: You Are Now Leaving the EU: Christiania Gets Raided
You Are Now Leaving the EU: Christiania Gets Raided
special to DRCNet by Valerie Vande Panne
The entrance to Christiania reads: "You are now leaving the E.U."
Christiania, the notorious autonomous zone in Copenhagen, Denmark
known for its open market of marijuana, hashish and psychedelic
mushrooms, recently suffered yet another raid on August 28, the
eve of a European Union Informal Meeting of Ministers for Foreign
"The EU meeting is completely unrelated to this sweep," said
Ulrick Knudsen of the Minister for Foreign Affairs office. "I
wasn't even aware there was a sweep."
The meeting covered EU expansion, the international criminal
courts and issues in the Middle East. While the Foreign Affairs
office denies knowledge of the sweep, residents of Christiania
"They swept the day all the government people came to town for the
EU meeting," observed a merchant from the part of town known as
The Danish Police were unavailable during several attempts to
contact them for comment.
"We never know when they're coming," said a man who owns a shop in
Christiania selling trinkets from Mexico to Tibet. "They come
eight to ten times a year, every year. They don't come here,
because they know I don't sell hash."
Marijuana, hash and mushrooms are enjoyed openly in Christiania.
It is important to the people there that access and use of these
items be open. Sentiment runs strong, however, against heroin and
"hard drugs," which Christiania residents do their best to banish
from the community. Signs declare "No Hard Drugs." One resident
even said the fact they don't allow hard drugs is the most
important part of the community. "About ten years ago, we went
through and moved everyone out who did hard drugs, or told them
they had to quit. Then, we drug tested them to make sure the ones
that stayed didn't use hard drugs. We also set up support groups
for them and for people who drink heavily. We try to be
supportive, and help the alcoholics before they become homeless
"Hard drugs" might not be tolerated within the free city of
Christiania, but they are readily available in other parts of the
city. Cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamines are quite popular in
other neighborhoods. The drug trade as a whole continues to be
operated by black market gangs in both Christiania and Copenhagen,
and occasionally there is gang related violence.
Christiania is an enclosed community -- there are only a few
entrances and exits. The streets are filled with "the biggest
dogs in Denmark," as a Copenhagen local observed -- pit bulls and
mastiffs lounge in the shade and play fight in the streets.
Unmarked guards at the perimeter keep watch 24 hours a day. The
residents and guards in Christiania are connected to each other
through two-way radios and a closed circuit computer network. The
guards keep the entire town abreast of what's going on outside --
including when the police are about to raid.
Even with a bit of warning, people are still arrested and goods
confiscated. Twenty-one people were arrested in the August 28
raid. Among the items seized, the people of Christiania seemed
most upset by the loss of numerous display tables that were large
and in many cases heated.
"There are undercover officers here all the time," said the
merchant from Pusher Street. "They are always watching."
Due to the government surveillance, Christiania residents are not
willing to give their names for publication. "It would not be
good for us," says one resident. They also do not permit photos.
Large signs declare "NO PHOTOS" -- and if one is seen taking
photos, a resident of the community will smash the camera and
escort the violator out of the town.
Sean Bega, of DC Courier in Washington DC, was visiting
Christiania the day of the raid. "It seemed civilized compared
with what goes on in the US. It was more like they were saying:
'We just want to remind you we're allowing this to happen. No
hard drugs, and keep the rest in here.' It's like there is a fine
line, and the police want them to remember not to cross it."
Raids in Christiania are quite different then in the US. The
police come in with shields. They do not draw their guns.
Tourists and young people throw rocks and stones at the police,
and the police have no reaction.
Though the police are relatively nonviolent, the experience of
being raided, possessions confiscated and people arrested takes
its toll. "Even though we are a free city, the continuous raids
make it hard for us to relax," said a young man who grew up in
The city is filled with some of the most beautiful graffiti
artwork in the world. Some of it portrays their view of the
police as death. Most of the art breathes life and color into the
One day after the August 28 raid, it was business as usual.
Merchants had their supply, and tourists and residents of
Copenhagen were strolling the quiet streets eagerly demanding
their goods. Searching for a sunny spot, to sit, and relax.
Visit http://www.berlingske.dk/artikel:aid=209688/ for video
footage of the raid. Visit http://www.christiania.org for
information about the community published by its members. Visit
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/228.html#christiania for past DRCNet
coverage of Christiania.
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