Christiania

( Freetown Christiania )

Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania), also known as Christiania or simply the Staden, is an intentional community and commune in the Christianshavn neighbourhood of the Danish capital city of Copenhagen. It began in 1971 as a squatted military base. Its Pusher Street is famous for its open trade of cannabis, which is illegal in Denmark.

1970s

On 26 September 1971, Christiania was declared open by Jacob Ludvigsen, a well-known provo and journalist who published a magazine called Hovedbladet ('The main paper'), which was intended for and successfully distributed to mostly young people. In the paper, Ludvigsen wrote an article in which he and five others explored what he termed 'The Forbidden City of the Military'. The article widely announced the proclamation of the free town, and among other things he wrote the following under the headline "Civilians conquered the 'forbidden city' of the military":[1] Although Christiania enjoyed an initial blind eye from the authorities,[2] The Ministry of Defence brought a legal case against Christiania on April 1, 1976,[2] which was upheld by the Supreme Court on February 2, 1978, who ruled that Christiania should be cleared immediately. However, despite the ruling, immediate action was not taken and that same year the Danish Parliament, Folketinget, decided that a development plan should be drafted first.

In addition to these external problems, pressure was building internally as well: Following the death of 10 residents in the space of one year from overdoses,[3] in 1979 the residents of Christiania began the "Junk Blockade". For 40 days and nights, residents patrolled the buildings where hard drugs were sold and sought to push the dealers out of the community while offering aid to the addicts.[4]

1980s

During the 1980s, motorcycle gangs fought their way into Christiania, seeking to gain control over the drug market. One gang in particular, Bullshit Motorcycle Club, managed to fight off a chapter of the Hells Angels to establish sole control of the drugs market by 1984. In 1987, after police found the dismembered body of a man under the floorboards of a Bullshitter bike shop inside Christiania, the Bullshitters were broken up and cleared from the area following a combined response from the community, the police and reprisals from the Hells' Angels.[3] From that point on, biker jackets were banned from the Freetown.[4]

In 1989 the Danish Parliament legalised Christiania.[5]

2000s

In April 2005, a gang shot and killed a man in Christiania and injured three others in an incident related to Christiania's cannabis trade.[6]

On 14 May 2007, workers from the governmental Forest and Nature Agency, accompanied by police, entered Christiania to demolish leftovers of the small, abandoned building of Cigarkassen ('the cigar box'). They were met by angry and frightened Christianites, fearing that the police also intended to demolish other houses. The residents built roadblocks, but the police eventually entered the Freetown en masse and were met by resistance. Residents threw stones and shot fireworks at police vehicles. They also built barricades in the street outside Christiania's gate. The police used tear gas on the residents and a number of arrests were made.[7] One activist sneaked behind the police commander and poured a bucket of urine and faeces upon him before being immediately arrested.[8] The trouble continued into the early morning hours. In all, over 50 activists from both Christiania and outside were arrested. Prosecutors demanded they be imprisoned on the basis that they might otherwise participate in further disturbances in Copenhagen (which prosecutors claimed was "in a state of rebellion").[9]

On 24 April 2009, a 22-year-old man had part of his jaw blown off by a hand grenade thrown into the crowds seated at Cafe Nemoland.[10] Four others had minor injuries.[10][11]

2016 shooting and end of Pusher Street stalls

On 31 August 2016, a person believed by police to be carrying earnings from cannabis sales shot two police officers and a civilian after being stopped.[12][13] The injuries of one of the officers who was shot in the head were life-threatening (he survived, but needed a long period of rehabilitation), while the injuries of the other victims were less serious.[13][14] Police sealed off the entire neighbourhood and located the perpetrator in Kastrup a few hours later. During a brief shootout with Politiets Aktionsstyrke (a special intervention police unit) he was seriously wounded and later died from his injuries in the hospital.[15][16][17] The perpetrator, a 25-year-old Danish citizen of Bosnian descent (he arrived in Denmark as a child with his family), was well known to the police for violence and involvement in cannabis sales. Although known to be a sympathiser with Islamic extremism, this is not considered to have played a role in his actions.[12][18][19] Police officers very rarely receive life-threatening injuries during encounters with criminals (at the moment of the Christiania shooting, the last killing of a police officer by a criminal in Denmark had been in 1995)[20] and the incident was widely condemned.[21]

In a communal meeting consisting of Christiania residents, it was decided that the stalls in Pusher Street (by far the site of the largest cannabis sale in Denmark) should be removed, which happened the following day, 2 September 2016.[22][23][24] Local residents also urged people who were friends of the neighbourhood to help by not buying cannabis in Christiania.[22] About two months later, it was estimated that the de facto practice of cannabis sales within Christiania had dropped by about 75%.[25]

When locals blocked the entrances to Pusher Street with concrete barriers and bars in August 2023, a resident said they were advocating not to buy the drugs in Christiania. The dealers in "Pusher Street" didn't adhere to the laws and values of the free city, the money they earned doesn't finance Christiania, but gangs.[26]

2023 shooting

On 26 August 2023, two masked gunmen opened fire in Christiania, killing a 30-year old man and injuring 4 other people.[27][28] According to the police, the shooting is related to a conflict between gangs.[29] After the shooting, the residents reiterated their inability to throw the gangs off the street without help.[29]

Due to the worsening gang violence, residents are strongly considering a proposition by the Danish government to buy the rest of the land with the proviso that they accommodate 15,000 square meters public housing development. This agreement would provide Christiania residents with help curbing the violence and the city with needed housing.[30]

2024 and beyond

The drug trade persists as of 2024, with locals and tourists alike enjoying mostly hashish products. Usable raw cannabis flower is less commonly available, with vendors favoring block hash sold by the gram, or infused in a cannabis-laced cigarette. All pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes are mixed with tobacco, as is common in Europe.[31] Other "harder" items are available upon request.


Intermittent drug raids[32] continue to hamper efficient drug distribution, and may occur at any time of day, though often in the evening. This prevents sales during peak windows for customer purchases and instills fear among vendors. Vendors are targeted for raids, not customers. Drug raids increase vendor risks, and translate to higher customer prices. As of 2024, the unofficial price for one rolled large hashish cigarette was approximately 100 krone (approximately $14 USD or €13 Euros) for touristy clientèle. These prices are quite high relative to legalized cannabis markets in the United States and the Netherlands.[33] Locals may tend to receive fairer market prices, especially if purchasing in bulk.

^ "Christiania" (in Danish). Archived from the original on 30 December 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2008., facsimiles of 'Hovedbladet', Jacob Ludvigsen's website ^ a b "Christiania: The hippy commune that survived for 50 years". BBC News. 21 November 2021. Archived from the original on 15 July 2022. Retrieved 14 July 2022. ^ a b Egli, Justin (19 July 2016). "The Danish state with a history of bikers, drugs & violence". Dazed. Archived from the original on 1 May 2022. 15 July 2022 ^ a b Anthony, Andrew (22 February 2004). "Going up in smoke". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 15 July 2022. Retrieved 15 July 2022. ^ Cathcart-Keays, Athlyn (23 September 2016). "Paradise lost: does Copenhagen's Christiania commune still have a future?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 15 July 2022. Retrieved 15 July 2022. ^ "First arrest in drug war slaying". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2006-08-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) ^ "Christiania demolition unleashes havoc". Archived from the original on September 21, 2008. Retrieved 2007-05-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) The Copenhagen Post, 14 May 2007 ^ "Politichef overhældt med urin af aktivist". Archived from the original on May 18, 2007. Retrieved 2017-09-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) Jyllands-Posten, 14 May 2007 (in Danish) ^ "Politianklagere: "København er i oprør"". Archived from the original on June 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), 18 May 2007 (in Danish) ^ a b "Man's jaw blown off in grenade attack". Copenhagen: Copenhagen Post. Archived from the original on 2009-04-26. Retrieved April 24, 2009. A number of people were injured - one seriously - when a hand grenade was thrown at them outside a Christiania café. A young man had part of his jaw blown off in an indiscriminate attack last night in the Christiania area of Copenhagen. The 22-year-old and four friends were sitting at a picnic table outside Café Nemoland when a hand grenade landed near them shortly after midnight. The man's face was badly injured when he was hit by shrapnel, but his condition was described as stable last night. Three of his companions received less severe injuries to their backs and legs, while one escaped injury in the attack. ^ Julian Isherwood. "Grenade lobbed at cafe". Copenhagen: Politiken. Archived from the original on June 13, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2009. Five people were wounded, one of them seriously, during the night when a hand grenade was lobbed at the Cafe Nemoland in the Christiania district of Copenhagen. A 22-year-old man suffered serious facial injuries, while four others suffered shrapnel wounds to the back and lower extremities. The 22-year-old was operated on during the night and is said to be in a stable condition. Police have no clues as to who was responsible for the attack or, as yet, an indication of a motive. ^ a b "Denmark drug raid turns bloody as suspect opens fire on cops". The New York Times. 1 September 2016. Archived from the original on 5 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ a b "What we know about the Christiania shooting". thelocal.dk. 2 September 2016. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ "Skudsåret betjent uden for livsfare - er begyndt at genoptræne". TV2 News. 7 October 2016. Archived from the original on 22 December 2016. Retrieved 14 December 2016. ^ W., Christian (2 September 2016). "Suspected Christiania shooter dead". CPH Post. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ "Two police officers, one civilian shot in Christiania". thelocal.dk. 1 September 2016. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ Tofte, Sofie (1 September 2016). "Politiet i stor aktion efter skyderi på Christiania" (in Danish). DR Nyheder. Archived from the original on 1 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ "Christiania shooter is Isis 'sympathizer': police". thelocal.dk. 1 September 2016. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ Tofte, Sofie; Bjerregaard, Morten (2 September 2016). "Politi: Intet tyder på sammenhæng mellem Christiania-nedskydning og IS-sympatier" (in Danish). DR Nyheder. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ Sørensen, Helle Harbo (8 October 2008). "Politidrab og røveri i Århus" (in Danish). TV2 Nyheder. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ Astrup, Søren (1 September 2016). "Politikerne efter skyderi i fristad: Otte gange vrede". Politiken (in Danish). JP/Politikens Hus. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ a b Astrup, Søren; Hvilsom, Frank (2 September 2016). "Nu rydder christianitterne selv Pusher Street". Politiken (in Danish). JP/Politikens Hus. Archived from the original on 3 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ "Cannabis booths torn down in Danish Free Town Christiania". The New York Times. 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ "Copenhagen cannabis market torn down after shooting". BBC News. 2 September 2016. Archived from the original on 3 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. ^ Hvilsom, Frank (30 October 2016). "Politidirektør: Hashmarked i Pusher Street er skrumpet kraftigt". Politiken (in Danish). JP/Politikens Hus. Archived from the original on 31 October 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016. ^ "Freistadt Christiania in Kopenhagen: Anwohner blockieren "Drogengasse"". tagesschau.de (in German). Retrieved 2023-08-28. ^ "Christiana: Denmark's hippie paradise asks to shut down Pusher Street". euronews. 2023-08-28. Retrieved 2023-10-21. ^ Birkebaek, Johannes (2023-08-28). "Danish hippy enclave Christiania wants drugs street shut after deadly shooting". Reuters. Retrieved 2023-10-21. ^ a b "Regeringen vil indføre skærpet strafzone på Christiania - TV 2". nyheder.tv2.dk (in Danish). 2023-09-06. Retrieved 2023-10-21. ^ "After 50 Years, a Danish Commune Is Shaken From Its Utopian Dream". The New York Times. December 5, 2023. Retrieved December 7, 2023. ^ "No Smoke without Tobacco: A Global Overview of Cannabis and Tobacco Routes of Administration and Their Association with Intention to Quit". ^ "Denmark's infamous Freetown, shaken by violence, aims to shutter Pusher Street | Courthouse News Service". ^ Price elasticity of illegal versus legal cannabis: a behavioral economic substitutability analysis
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