Christiania – Still Worth the Trip?

Christiania – Still Worth the Trip?

- in International, News
Photo: Rowena Guthrie.

The proximity of Lund to Copenhagen makes it a popular destination for students to visit and Christiania will make many people’s must-see list. But after the recent shooting and action from the residents, is it still worth it? 

Freetown Christiania was formed in 1971 by squatters with the intention of creating a “self-governing society, whereby each and every individual can thrive under the responsibility for the entire community”.

The squatters moved into abandoned army barracks in 1971 and the following year formed an agreement with the state which allowed their use of the land. In 2011 a deal was made between the residents of Christiania and the Danish Government that formed the Foundation Freetown Christiania. As a collective the residents bought off of the state the area of Christiania located outside the protected ramparts.

Despite its unique social history, probably the most famous aspect of Christiania is the ability to openly purchase weed while there.  Although it is illegal throughout Denmark, the residents of Christiania have maintained their philosophy of weed legalisation and as a result Pusher Street became the place in Copenhagen for open sales. However total drug legalisation is not advocated for. Hard drugs have never been supported by the commune and during the rise of heroin use, a ‘junk blockade’ was organised in 1979 by the residents which gave users access to treatment.

Bike gangs have maintained an influence in Christiania for almost as long as its existence and although dealers must be residence of Christiania, in 2004 Danish police surveillance revealed that the dealers were under the control of biker gangs. In recent years the gang influence has become increasingly prevalent, with the introduction of dealers covering their faces and screening their stalls to only show their hands.

On August 31st 2016, Mesa Hodzic shot two police officers and one bystander on Pusher Street. In response to the incident the collective ripped down Pusher Street, an act usually undertaken by the police, to show their frustration with the gangs and support for the police. Rather than springing straight back, as it has done after police raids, as of yet Pusher Street has not been rebuilt.

The other side of the Christiania ethos remains prevalent. The restaurants, pubs, and community projects are still open. The stalls on the main square still sell brightly coloured knitwear and cannabis paraphernalia but no drugs, at least not openly. However, the smell of weed still hangs heavily in the air and a small stretch of Pusher Street has been reclaimed by dealers not in stalls but rather in groups conjugating on the pavement.

Freetown Christiania is a rare example of collective living in Europe. Christiania has always been so much more than a place to buy weed, with a rich cultural heritage of its own. Hopefully that will be the reason it is recommended as a must-see stop in Copenhagen.

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