Ex-resident and police say Christiania’s future threatened by violence
In response to an opinion piece in Politiken newspaper, in which a former Christiania resident encourages residents of the commune to stand up to the gang members that control its hash market, the chief inspector of the Copenhagen Police says the enclave’s future is threatened by the criminality.
“The hash trade is accompanied by violence and other serious crimes to an extent that Christiania is threatened,” chief inspector Jørn Aabye said to the newspaper.
Aabye was responding to an opinion piece by Kjeld Pries, who wrote that violence and threats against Christianites will hamper the enclave’s ability to evolve now that the residents have been given the option to buy the land after a prolonged legal battle.
Referring to the recent beating of three parking wardens outside of Christiania, Pries wrote:
“It pains me to see and hear that the freetown’s residents evade the real issue: a gang of thugs from Pusher Street, or more specifically the market at Peace Meadow [Fredens eng]. Residents refuse to speak out against the pusher environment out of a fear of reprisal.”
Pries added that the current hash market is much different than the one created when Christiania was established in 1971 and that “Pusher Street is no longer something Christiania’s community has control of, if indeed it ever did”.
Pries’s perception is shared by police.
The head of the police drug unit, Steffen Steffensen, told Politiken that police do not have problems with residents but with “the gentlemen with tattoos that are leading” the drug trade.
“Pusher Street is a rough place, and it is rougher than before,” he said.
According to Aabye, police have largely been absent from Pusher Street since an incident in August in which police pulled their guns and fired tear gas.
“We don’t want to expose ourselves and the freetown’s residents to that sort of thing so we are currently considering new methods even though we can’t always avoid the turmoil and trouble,” he said.
He added that Christianites should not confront the gangs themselves but should instead work with police.
Resident Thomas Ertmann, a member of Christiania’s press group, disagreed with the characterisation of Christiania as a violent place.
“In recent years, it has improved because, among other things, police are not so eager to chase small pushers,” he told Politiken. “There is a noticeably better mood and fewer incidents.”
He added that it could not be residents’ responsibility to combat organised criminality but that residents try to help if there is trouble in the neighbourhood.
Pries suggested that the criminality in Christiania would be markedly reduced by legalising hash.
City Councillors agree and have proposed that the city decriminalise the drug. The council is planning to apply to the Justice Ministry for permission to sell hash at 20-25 council-operated stores as a five-year experiment.