Thursday, January 05, 2006

A report from the free city of Christiania

Donovan King, a Canadian performance activist is presently visiting the Free City of Christiania in Denmark in hopes of establishing an infringement Festival there to help residents artistically challenge recent police harassment.

Christiania, a green car-free city in the middle of Copenhagen has come under threat from the right-wing Danish government which plans to demolish over 50 homes with no plans for the people currently living in them.

Donovan brings us this, the first of many reports...

Today I managed to get to Chistiania during daylight hours and purchased a guidebook (for 5 kroners - it is available for free online). While trying to orient myself with a cold Tuborg on the terrace at the Cafe Woodstock, I witnessed my first "police patrol" through the Freetown. About 8 officers, armed to the gills, paraded military-style up Pusher Street, glaring at everyone, myself included, as though we were potential criminals. There is a series of signals used by the locals to ensure when the police arrive they are clean (eg - not smoking or posessing any hash) and therefore not subject to harssment.

In the past I am told the police have resorted to the following draconian measures: strip-search, arresting people with a roach by their foot, banning people from establishments for 1-2 years if caught smoking, ticketing (300 kroners I believe), mass arrests (recently, on Sept 7 2005, an entire circus was arrested, including children!), police brutality, intimidation, extensive use of under-cover officers, and the demolition or removal of not only housing, but also stages, tents, and other facilities used by the citizens.

I soon went to the Nyt Forum (infoshop) and was soon hooked up with one of the leaders of the Rebel Clown Army, who was very keen to hear about how we deal with these issues in Canada. I shall call him JH out of respect for privacy. I mentioned the infringement festial and JH said he was very interested to learn more. I told him to check it out online and tell his associates.
He filled me in on a lot of the other critical artists in Christiania, and will now set up meetings with folks such as Christiania TV, filmmakers Britta and Nils Vest, various visual artists, activists, etc. This is a freecity in need of a strategy for the shitstorm ahead, probably due in the spring or summer.

Recently, on Jan 1, every resident was given a paper telling them whether or not they have "users rights" to Christiania, an obvious effort to divide the people. Those with "rights" will be allowed to stay living here after the mass evictions, but for how long, nobody knows. Those with no rights will have their homes demolished and they will be forcibly expelled from the community. No, this isn't Gaza or Zimbabwe - it is central Europe!

In any case, I am trying to hook up the people here with other activists around the world. If Christiania is to be saved, it will need a global effort this time around.

I will keep you all posted as things develop on this side of the pond.

- Donovan King
in Christiania


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