Free city of Christiania
The Freetown Christiania ( Danish Fristad Christiania, also Free Christiania or short Christiania ) is an alternative residential development in the Danish capital Copenhagen , which was founded 1971st From the point of view of the Danish authorities, it is a state-tolerated autonomous municipality .
Christiania covers an area of 34 hectares in the Christianshavn district of Copenhagen . The former military area of the Bådsmandsstrædes barracks is located on the historic ramparts of the city. Geographically, Christiania is divided into a total of 15 areas:
- Bjørnekloen ( hogweed )
- Den Blå Karamel (Blue Caramel )
- Fabriksområdet (factory site)
- Fredens Ark ( Peace Ark )
- Loppebygningen (flea house)
- Løvehuset (Lion House)
- Mælkebøtten (dandelion)
- Mælkevejen ( Milky Way )
- Midtdyssen (middle pile)
- Nordområdet (northern section)
- Norddyssen (Nordstapel)
- Prærien ( prairie )
- Syddyssen (Südstapel)
- Tinghuset ( Thinghaus )
Barracks and city fortifications
The Christiania area consists of former barracks in the Bådsmandsstræde (Bådsmandsstrædes Kaserne) and parts of the city wall . The city walls and the then independent city of Christianshavn were founded in 1617 by King Christian IV through the reclamation of land between Copenhagen and Amager . After the Battle of Copenhagen during the war with Sweden, the city walls were expanded into a complete defensive ring between 1682 and 1692 under Christian V. The western walls of Copenhagen were demolished during the 19th century, but the city walls in Christianshavn were left. They are now considered to be one of the best preserved defenses in the world.
The barracks on Bådsmandsstræde housed the royal artillery regiment , the army's material command, and ammunition laboratories and stores. They were little used after the Second World War and stood empty between 1967 and 1971.
The area to the north, Holmen , was Denmark's main naval base until the 1990s . Holmen is currently being expanded and is home to the Copenhagen Opera House (not to be confused with the previously and still existing “Operaen”, a venue for concerts in Christiania) and various schools. The area further north is still used by the Navy, but is open to the public during the day.
The outermost line of defense, envelopes, was (except for the southernmost tip, which is not part of Christiana) in Christianized-Nazi sociolect in Dyssen renamed. It is connected to Christiania by a bridge over the main moat or can be reached via a path starting at Christmas Møllers Plads. Four former stores for gunpowder are located in the V-shaped formations of the wall, the redans. They were built between 1779 and 1780 to replace a camp site in Østerport in central Copenhagen, which exploded in 1770, killing 50 people. The houses were renamed Aircondition, Autogena, Fakirskolen (the fakir school) and Kosmiske Blomst (Cosmic Flower) and were slightly changed despite being a listed building.
The last place in Denmark where executions were carried out between 1946 and 1950 can still be visited on the second Redan, near the house called Aircondition . The wooden execution hut was torn down, but the screed foundation and a drain for the blood are still right next to the path. A total of 29 war criminals from World War II were executed at this place. The last war criminal to be executed on July 20, 1950 was Ib Birkedal, a senior Gestapo agent from Denmark.
Protection of the houses and the land
In 2007 the Kulturarvsstyrelsen (German “Cultural Heritage Authority”) intended to put part of the military buildings, which are now in Christiania, under monument protection. These are:
- Den grå hal ('gray hall'), formerly a riding stable with a unique plank roof construction, now Christiania's largest event location
- Den grønne hal ('Green Hall'), originally a smaller riding stable
- Mælkebøtten (' Dandelion ')
- The commander's house, a half-timbered house
- The 17th and 18th century powder chambers in the bastions
Some historical buildings were slightly changed after the takeover of Christiania.
The foundation of Christiania
After the military left the area, the site was guarded by only a few guards and the empty houses were sporadically inhabited by homeless people. On September 4, 1971, the fences were torn down by residents of the surrounding districts and the area was partly used as a playground for their children.
Although the takeover was initially unorganized, it was seen as a protest against the Danish government as there was a shortage of affordable housing in Copenhagen then, as now.
On September 26, 1971, Christiania was declared open by Jacob Ludvigsen , a well-known provocateur and journalist who published a newspaper called Hovedbladet ('Das Hauptblatt'), which was intended for young people and was also successful among them. Ludvigsen published an article in his newspaper in which he and five other people went on a voyage of discovery into an area he called 'The Forbidden City of the Military'. The article made the founding of the free city widely known, among other things it wrote under the heading Civilians conquer the 'Forbidden City' of the military :
“Christiania is the land of the settlers. So far it is the greatest chance to build a society from scratch - and still use the existing buildings. Its own power station, a bath house, a gigantic sports hall where all those seeking peace can meditate with dignity, and a yoga center. Halls in which theater groups can feel at home. Buildings for stoners who are too paranoid and weak to rush off ... Yes, for those who feel the pioneering heart beat, there can be no doubt about the purpose of Christiania. It's the part of the city that was kept secret from us - but no longer. "
Ludvigsen was co-author of Christiania's mission statement from 1971, in which the following is written:
“The goal of Christiania is to create a self-governing society in which everyone is responsible for the well-being of the entire community. Our society should be economically self-sustaining, and as such we strive to be unwavering in our conviction that psychological and physical poverty can be prevented. "
The protest song I kan ikke slå os ihjel (translated: “You can't kill us”), written in 1976 by Tom Lunden from the Flower Power rock group Bifrost, became Christiania's unofficial anthem.
Meditation and yoga have been popular among Christianites from the start, and Christiania has had her own internationally acclaimed theater company "Solvognen" ("The Sun Chariot") for many years, which has hosted many events in Copenhagen and Sweden in addition to its theater performances. Ludvigsen had always spoken of the acceptance of drug addicts who can no longer cope with regular society, and this belief has not changed to this day, although many problems have arisen from the use of drugs (although mainly "hard drugs", which anyway not be tolerated in Christiania). These addicts come and stay in Christiania and are seen as just as essential to the ethics of the Free City as those with enterprising spirit. For this reason, Christiania is seen by many Danes as a successful experiment. For many years, however, the legal status of the free city was in limbo as various Danish governments tried to evict the residents from Christiania. The attempts have so far been unsuccessful.
Christiania is therefore one of the biggest tourist attractions in Copenhagen and widely known abroad as a “brand” for the progressive and free lifestyle of the Danes. Many Danish companies and organizations also use Christiania as a showcase for their foreign friends and guests. The purpose is to show them something 'Danish' that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The rules (as in the rest of Denmark) prohibit theft, violence, firearms, dangerous knives and hard drugs. Bulletproof vests are just as undesirable as are the badges of motorcycle clubs such as Hells Angels and Bandidos associated with organized crime .
The region reached an agreement with the Danish Ministry of Defense (which still owns the site) in 1995. Since 1994, residents have paid taxes and fees for water, electricity, garbage disposal and other ancillary costs.
The future of the area has long been uncertain as the Danish authorities sought to remove Christiania. After the residents reached an agreement with the Danish government to purchase the area, Christiania now seems to have found a secure existence.
Christiania is known for the so-called Pusher Street ('Dealer Street'), in which cannabis is publicly sold in stalls . The trade is controversial among the residents of Christiania, but according to the rules of the settlement itself it cannot be abolished as long as not everyone gives their consent according to the principle of consensus . For some time now, the police have also been taking action against drug trafficking. In the first half of 2018, a total of eight raids were carried out in which 400,000 euros and 200 kilograms of cannabis were seized. At the end of 2017, the authorities had seized around 30 kilos of hashish , 10,000 joints and various other drugs in a three-day campaign .
The flag of the Free City of Christiania is a red banner with three yellow dots. These dots represent the “i” dots in “Christiania”. When the first squatters occupied the abandoned military facility, they found a large amount of red and yellow paint, so they chose those colors for their flag.
Another interpretation of the points is the free city's motto “Freedom, Equality, Fraternity” or, as some also say, “Peace, Love and Harmony”.
Controversy since 2000
There have been increasing protests and conflicts in and around Christiania lately, partly as a consequence of the government's plans to incorporate the area into the city.
TV report from 2004
The political satirical show Den halve sandhed ("Half the truth") shot an episode on March 26, 2004 in Christiania. In a not very serious action, a journalist began to build a small wooden hut on one of Christiania's open spaces, assuming that everyone could settle in the free city.
Within minutes, residents came and told him it was completely unacceptable. The journalist was forcibly ordered to leave. However, other residents took the time to peacefully explain to him the building rights of Christiania (a building permit must be obtained from the plenary). Journalists later set up a booth selling "politically incorrect" goods like Coca-Cola and Israeli oranges , which they thought was no worse than selling cannabis to minors.
2005 shooting and murder
On April 24, 2005, a 26-year-old Christiania resident was killed and three others injured in a gang violent assault on Pusher Street. The reason for this was a guerrilla war over the cannabis market in Copenhagen.
After the open cannabis trade ended a year earlier, criminal circles were eager to take over the market. Responsible for the shooting was a gang, which consists mainly of immigrants from the Nørrebro district in the north-west of the city. They had previously asked the traders from Christiania several times to be accepted into their market, but were turned away each time. On April 23, 2005 there was a violent escalation. Christiania traders had learned that a member of an outside group had infiltrated their organization by having a relationship with a female trader. He was exposed and narrowly escaped - two shots were fired at him. The next day two cars drove into Christiania, from which six to eight masked men with automatic firearms got out and headed for Pusher Street. After getting there, they fired at least 35 shots at the crowd, killing one Christianite and wounding three others.
Riots over the demolition of a house
On May 14, 2007, workers from the forest and nature authorities, accompanied by the police, broke into Christiania and tore down the remains of the small, abandoned building Cigarkassen ("cigar box"). They met angry and frightened Christianites who feared that the police were planning to demolish more houses, roadblocks were set up and trucks sabotaged to remove the rubble . The police finally penetrated the free city with a large contingent and encountered massive resistance from the residents, who shot the police vehicles with stones and fireworks and also erected barricades outside Christiania. The police used tear gas and made more than 50 arrests, an activist sneaked behind the police commander and poured a bucket of urine and feces over him, young people barricaded the entrances to Christiania and pelted the police with stones and Molotov cocktails . The unrest dragged on into the early hours of the morning until the police, after several unsuccessful attempts to storm the barricades, withdrew and finally gave up. The public prosecutor's office demanded the arrest of the arrested persons, otherwise the prisoners could participate in further riots in Copenhagen, as Copenhagen would be " in a state of rebellion ".
In Christiania no cars are allowed except for the transport of goods, but a total of 132 cars were allowed per residents, which are parked on the surrounding streets. After negotiations with the city administration, Christiania agreed to create parking spaces for its residents within the free city. 14 parking spaces were created by 2005.
Before the city council elections in November 2001, the residents of a neighborhood suggested tearing down a kindergarten at the gates of Christiania and rebuilding it a few hundred meters away in order to convert the area gained into a parking lot. This proposal was criticized by other residents of Christiania and the affected part of Copenhagen; however, the proponents argued that the wooden kindergarten building was ailing.
Since 2008, only goods traffic has been allowed at the entrance next to the Gray Hall (Grå Hal). Therefore a barrier was installed there to prevent potential cannabis buyers and other visitors from parking their vehicles in the narrow streets. The immediate consequence of this, however, was initially that the other entrances were also blocked by parked cars.
The Gay House (Bøssehuset), one of Christiania's autonomous institutions, has been a center of the gay movement since the 1970s, hosting parties and theater shows, among other things. The humorous and highly artistic vaudeville- style shows are popular among Copenhagen's homosexuals.
In 2002, a group of young gay performers and activists named Dunst was invited to take over the house so that it could continue to be a center for the gay movement. Dunst introduced a democratic administration and has since provided open workshops for photography, art, music, dance, film and various other things. They also organized three 'Save Christiania' nights, a cabaret show and three sympathetic parties to repay part of the gay house's debt to Christiania. According to Dunst, however, they are not willingly accepted by the neighbors and the newcomers have been accused of not understanding “Christiania's lifestyle”. Dunst claims they were verbally abused, received threatening letters, and once a baseball bat was thrown at them. Some didn't like Dunst's loud parties, their contemporary electro-punk music was labeled techno . You were asked to leave Christiania after nine months.
In 2004, Dunst took part in “Christiania Distortion”, an event in support of Christiania. Since they could not use the gay house, the event took place on a bus that drove around Christiania.
Eviction and uprising
On October 29th, 2008 the second floor of the house "Vadestedet" was cleared, which led to a day-long riot. Among other things, a bridge was blocked for half an hour. The next day, residents of Christiania were working on renovating the second floor.
Hand grenade attack
On April 23, 2009, Café Nemoland was attacked with a hand grenade. Five people were injured, some seriously. The perpetrator escaped unrecognized. The Danish police believed that the attack was linked to a gang conflict in drug trafficking . In 2009 there were numerous shootings and acts of violence in Denmark between the Hells Angels , their support group AK81 and criminal gangs who are located in the immigrant environment.
2016 shooting and attempted murder
On the evening of August 31, 2016, an exchange of fire broke out during the arrest of a drug dealer on Pusher Street. The suspected drug dealer resisted arrest, drew a hidden weapon and shot one of the two plainclothes policemen in the head and the other in the leg. Even an uninvolved passer-by was greeted by him with the words Are you a fucking cop too? (literally: Er du os fucking panser?) shot in the leg. The perpetrator first fled to the nearby district of Tårnby on the island of Amager , where he was caught by the police the next morning and shot again when he tried to escape. He died the following night in Rigshospitalet as a result of the gunshot wound, while the policeman he shot in the head was still in critical condition. During the nightly search for the perpetrator, among other things, the train service from Copenhagen via the Öresund to Skåne in Sweden was stopped. The perpetrator is said to be the 25-year-old Dane with a Bosnian migration background, Mesa Hodzic, who was already accused of attempted murder together with his father in 2010, and who has long been known to the police as a member of organized crime in the drug trade and is a member the Islamist - Salafist group Millatu Ibrahim and a sympathizer of the Islamic State . After the crime, according to the IS Amaq propaganda agency , Islamic State confessed to the crime, but this was doubted by police officials and experts who see no connection between the shooting and ISIS.
Politicians from all parties represented in the Folketing condemned the act. Many demanded consequences from the events, representatives of the police asked the residents of Christiania to cooperate. Representatives of some left and liberal parties also called for the release of cannabis . On the evening of September 1st, there was a residents' meeting in Christiania at which the residents of the alternative housing estate called on the citizens to boycott the cannabis trade on Christiania in order to dry up the local drug trade and the criminal environment. On September 2, 2016, the drug stalls on Pusher Street were torn down by residents of Christiania while numerous drug traffickers were watching, and a stall was set up by residents near the Danish Parliament saying Now Denmark can get the fuck back of it! (literally: Så kan Danmark fandme få det lort tilbage!) . However, according to reports from the media and police, cannabis sales continued to take place in secret on Christiania and in the surrounding area and there were fears that gang wars would break out in the streets of Copenhagen.
The residents regard Christiania as a free city that manages itself independently of the state authorities. Based on democracy and based on consensus , the focus is on self-regulation . A police do not exist, various forms of meetings intervene when necessary and may as a penalty the exclusion from the community.
The plenary session (Fællesmøde)
The approximately 400 people who have lived in the “free commune / community Christiania” since the beginning of 1972 met for the first general assembly to discuss common problems (water supply, electricity, rules, ...) and to start negotiations with the magistrate. The plenary (Fællesmøde) deals with matters that affect the entire community, e.g. B. the decision of the annual budget, cooperation and negotiations with the Danish state or conflicts with the Copenhagen police.
The Area Meetings (Områdemøde)
The area meetings (Områdemøde) are usually convened once a month. Here the problems of the 15 sections are discussed.
Relationship with the Danish authorities
Previous attempts by Danish authorities to remove the squatters from the site failed due to the large number of people (approx. 900) and the size of the area, so that in 1972 they agreed to regard the occupation as a “ social experiment ” and to strike tolerate until a decision is made about the use of the site. In return, the residents agreed to pay the operating costs (electricity, water). From the point of view of the Danish authorities, it is a state-tolerated autonomous municipality.
The Danish center-right government, which ruled until October 2011, was not well disposed towards the Free City. The government of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and that of his successor Lars Løkke Rasmussen wanted to enforce the application of the usual building and awarding regulations for living space in Christiania. Until then, the residents decided on the award. In May 2007, by order of the Danish authorities, the demolition of the wooden house "cigar box" was carried out. The residents saw it as an inadmissible interference with their self-government and a political provocation, which is why they temporarily rebuilt the building.
On May 26, 2009, the competent court (Østre Landsret) decided in favor of the Danish government to evacuate Christiania. The decision was examined by the Supreme Court ( Højesteret ). In February 2011, the decision to withdraw Christiania's independence was confirmed by the highest court.
On December 14, 2009, on the sidelines of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen , riots broke out on the edge of the Christiania settlement, during which burning barricades were erected. The police used tear gas and water cannons against the rioters and arrested around 150-200 people on the Christiania site, 210 people according to other sources.
On April 30, 2011, the residents of Christiania accepted the government's offer to buy land and buildings from the state for 150 million crowns (20 million euros). The hour of birth of the new "Free State" Christiana was celebrated with an exuberant folk festival, whereby the construction requirements of the authorities had to be met. A “people's share ” was issued to finance the purchase price . By the end of February 2012, around 900,000 euros had been raised in this way. On July 1, 2012, part of Christiania was transferred from the Danish state to the Christianite Foundation for a one-off payment of 85.4 million crowns and an annual rent of 5.3 million crowns.
Social and health policy
Many welfare state services have been introduced over the years, from street cleaning to the post office to kindergartens, school leisure facilities and a bath / health house. There are no leases or home ownership.
The individualistic, picturesque architecture and the urban layout are an expression of the alternative way of life represented there . Nevertheless, one does not isolate oneself completely from society, many Christianites work outside the settlement, all pay their taxes to the Danish state - and at the same time a share of their own administration. In general, life in Christiania today is more consumer-oriented than it corresponded to the original ideals of the hippie movement. There is a separate currency called LØN (wages), the coins are worth 50 Danish kroner.
There are rules in Christiania. The most important are:
- No stolen goods
- No hard drugs
- No violence
- No bulletproof clothing
- No weapons
- No badges from motorcycle gangs
- No cannon strikes (certain type of fireworks)
Cars and motorcycles are prohibited in Christiania.
The use of so-called “ soft drugs ” - for example cannabis - was tolerated in Christiania by the Danish government for over thirty years and the trade was barely hindered. However, the possession of hashish is still illegal and the police - increasingly in the high tourist season - punish them with fines if buyers leave Christiania with their goods. In 2015, 2,000 crowns were due for unauthorized possession, 10 grams resulted in a fine of 3,000 crowns (400 euros).
In 2002 the Danish government requested that cannabis sales be made less visible, whereupon the sellers covered their stands in camouflage as a satirical response . On January 4, 2004, cannabis dealers tore down their stalls on Pusher Street , the day before a major police action was planned. The sellers knew about this action and had decided to demolish the stands themselves. Police carried out over 20 arrests in the weeks that followed, eliminating much of Pusher Street's organized sales network. The Danish National Museum was able to save one of the colorful stands from demolition, which is now part of an exhibition.
Photography near Pusher Street is prohibited. This is indicated by numerous prohibition signs. If you are caught anyway, you will be asked to delete the photos taken in front of the discoverer. Photography is permitted in the rest of the area as long as the usual reluctance to take photos of people is observed.
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