2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit Fears Green Christiania Squat Nearby

The Danish government will be cracking down on the Christiania squatter
camp despite its green credentials

Less than two weeks before the start of the UN’s climate summit in
Copenhagen, a counter-cultural enclave in the heart of the capital has
again been attracting the attention of the Danish authorities.

Christiania, the sprawling commune that clings limpet-like to 32
hectares of prime property in the centre of Copenhagen, has been an
anarchist stronghold and municipal headache ever since a group of
squatters seized a former military barracks there in the late 1960s.

Since the squat is technically illegal, by rights this part of
Christianshavn should long ago have been converted into apartments.
Instead this is where a population of more than 700 bikers, hippies,
skaters, drug dealers, artists, anarchists, punks, activists, strays and
vagrants live in a kind of organised chaos, pariahs to the Danish
People’s Party, an increasingly popular and influential far-Right group
that says Christiania is dangerous and want to see it demolished. It is
feared that the dilapidated “state within a state” will form a mecca for
the thousands of anti-globalisation protesters who are expected to
descend on Denmark in the second week of December.

Already nervous about unrest, the Danish Government is rushing new laws
through parliament to extend police powers and impose tougher penalties
for civil disobedience. Brian Mikkelsen, the Justice Minister, has
stated that anybody found to be “inhibiting police work” will be jailed
for 40 days rather than fined. The new laws would also allow police the
power to detain people for 12 hours even when no crime had been
committed, and raise fines for failing to disperse from a demonstration
to more than £350.

“I fear it’s a slippery slope,” the historian Jes Fabricius Møller told
The Times. “We don’t have a strong awareness of citizens’ rights in this
country.”

Mr Møller added that the Liberal-Conservative Government had for a long
time been engaged in an ideological crusade against Christiania.

It is an irony that seems to be lost on the Danish police and
politicians alike, considering the subject matter of the forthcoming
conference: that Christiania has always been at the vanguard of
Denmark’s environmental movement.

Its inhabitants use composting toilets connected to individual organic
water-treatment systems, run their homes on solar power and aim to reuse
100 per cent of the community’s waste. The area is also a car-free zone
that boasts a relatively lucrative cottage industry in bicycles.

Christiania has attracted mostly negative press attention in recent
years because of drugs raids by police in “Pusher Street” — an area of
the commune where cannabis is still sold openly from market stalls — and
riots that have resulted from repeated attempts by the authorities to
demolish the buildings within the commune; but it is a second irony that
Christiania has become the second most visited spot in Copenhagen after
the Tivoli gardens. A million tourists come here every year, school
groups among them.

It is not impossible, given the proximity of the summit venue to the
squatter centre, that delegates at climate change conference will find
themselve strolling along Christiania’s dirt roads, inhaling the heavy
scent of marijuana.

“We consider Christiania as way ahead of what is being discussed at
COP15,” Thomas Ertman, the commune’s press co-ordinator, told The Times,
“We’re looking forward to showing what we have to offer.”

Naomi Klein, the left-wing writer, caused shudders recently by saying
that environmental activists were planning to be “very disobedient” at
the summit. Closer to the truth, in Christiania at least, is that they
are likely to be very disorganised.

In Christiania plans for the summit are still in their infancy.
Spearheading the plans is Britta Lillasoee, a friendly and dynamic
long-term resident of Christiania who intends to run an alternative From
Bottom To Top conference for “ordinary people”.

Her two-week programme will run alongside the official summit. Topics
under discussion will include sustainable building, waste and design,
social ecology and conflict resolution.

When The Times visited, a stonemason outside her house was carving
gravestones that will be erected to represent, she said, the “burying of
egoism, or the burying of coal reserves back in the ground”.

Though Ms Lillasoee’s aims may seem modest and eccentric, she said that
her alternative summit was more likely to initiate real change.

“We have been living environmentally for years. We can teach by
example,” she said.

Like most of the inhabitants of Christiania, she retains her belief that
the politicians who will be fleshing out deals at the climate-change
conference have only their countries’ commercial interests at heart.

http://slash.autonomedia.org/node/13364


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