The bouncer was forthright. “Sorry, no blacks allowed inside tonight,” he told Zimbabwean national Tendai Tagarira, a former columnist of the Copenhagen Post, at the door of an Aarhus nightclub in 2012.
“A Somali is suspected of stealing a credit card from a Dane and about 30,000 kroner is missing from that account,” the bouncer further explained.
But did Tagarira’s experience really surprise anyone? After all, Danish nightclubs have a well-documented track record of racism at their doors.
A land fit for Danes only
Fast-forward three years, and a new form of discrimination is developing. Widely reported xenophobia on display at the Hornsleth Bar nightclub in central Copenhagen last month (see page 5) might sound like a step down from racism, but paradoxically, it hints at a more widespread problem facing foreigners in Denmark.
“This club is only for Danish citizens,” a Portuguese man was told as he was turned away and Danes were admitted (see page 5). Is this the future internationals can expect to face: a Denmark for Danes only?
It is a sentiment that was confirmed by one of the country’s leading tour operators, which told the Weekly Post in 2013 that it did not target international because, once again a little paradoxically, its Danish customers did not want to go on holiday abroad with foreigners.
Muslims taking no chances
Meanwhile, Muslim groups are increasingly depending on one another to cope with the unprovoked violence that has followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks and Copenhagen shootings.
For example, one group consisting of several hundred men, ‘Beskyt dine søstre’ (protect your sisters), has since January stood poised and ready to move at all times should it receive a distress call.
It sounds bizarre – like something out of the world of Batman – and illegal. Which is unfortunate, as in matters of discrimination and hate crimes, the law is now firmly on the victim’s side, or at least the law in the capital.
Starting at the schools
In October 2014, the department of employment and integration at Copenhagen Municipality launched a campaign, ‘Stemplet’ (labelled), in a bid to intensify its efforts to combat the growing problem of discrimination and hate crimes within the city.
“Copenhagen should be a city where everyone feels equal in society,” the municipality explained on its website.
“That is why Copenhagen Municipality is actively working towards combating discrimination and hate crimes.”
Several initiatives will be introduced this year, including activities at upper-secondary schools aimed at making students and teachers reflect on prejudice and discrimination.
App to report discrimination
Of particular interest to Muslims – along with other vulnerable groups such as the homeless, the Jewish community and many foreigners – is the Stemplet app, which enables users to anonymously report discriminatory behaviour (in English as well as Danish).
Since its launch in October 2014, it has been downloaded 1,800 times and there have been 225 registered cases – but how many more would there be if more people knew about it, and if it applied to the whole country?
“It takes time for people to embrace something new – that’s why we recently teamed up with Arriva to run adverts on buses throughout the city,” spokesperson Eline Feldman told the Weekly Post.
“Looking ahead, our plan is to roll out the app nationwide in two months’ time.” According to Feldman, it will be introdcued in conjunction with the Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs.
Using the data from the app, the municipality can build a database that not only catalogues the extent of discriminatory behaviour, but also a map of where it is taking place. If a pattern emerges, the information is relayed to a relevant authority, such as the police, who can then take appropriate action.
“The idea is not to act on individual cases, but rather on tendencies,” explained Feldman, who said the municipality was wary of how individuals with a personal vendetta could make a false report.
“Although anonymous, each report carries its own unique identification number. That way we can tell if someone is being genuine or if a report is personally or politically motivated.”
Reports can also be submitted via the website: srvblaiseprod1.dst.dk/IMR. (MR)
Discrimination in Denmark: at the door of a city nightclub
Vinny Sagar (centre left) and his friends were denied entry because they were not European
A club in central Copenhagen has been labelled “racist” by a number of internationals turned away at its doors. In some cases, the rejected foreigners claim the nightclub’s security told them it was because they were not European and, in some cases, not Danish.
Founded by provocative conceptual artist Kristian von Hornsleth nearly six years ago, Hornsleth Bar is a new breed of nightclub creeping into the city’s scene that takes pride in turning away customers for vague reasons like being able to “contribute to the atmosphere and party”.
Schengen: Yes; Hornsleth: No
The incidents reported at the door of Hornsleth, both via social media and directly to the Weekly Post, follow a similar pattern: internationals wait in line for up to an hour (while numerous other, Scandinavian-looking guests are admitted) and are then refused entry by the security for dubious reasons – in most cases because of their “lack of valid identification” to get into the over-23s club.
When pressed for an explanation, the Hornsleth security revealed the true reason for the refusal.
“‘This club is only for Europeans – you are not welcome here,’ we were told,” Vinny Sagar, an Indian who lives and works in Denmark, recalled to the Weekly Post.
“We were a mix of different nationalities from India, Brazil, China – an equal amount of boys and girls. After waiting for almost an hour – during which time the bouncer ignored us and let others pass in front – we were told we needed our passports as ID to get in.”
This led to a confrontation, at which point the bouncer let slip the European ‘door policy’. “I have never experienced such discrimination before,” concluded Sagar.
Danes recognise racism
The reports of mistreatment and racial discrimination at Hornsleth are far from limited to its international clientele.
A young Danish woman, Adriana Sava, wrote on Facebook: “I am embarrassed and disappointed by your treatment of internationals at Hornsleth. I have never seen discrimination so upfront before.”
She recounted the story of two “sober” Italians who she estimated to be 28-30. They were first told their Italian IDs weren’t valid, and then that their driving licences weren’t sufficient because of “problems with people from Italy with fake ID”.
Another Danish patron, Stine Felice Helles, also shared the experience she had with her Portuguese boyfriend at the club.
“I was allowed in, but my boyfriend was not,” she revealed on Facebook. “He was told ‘this club is only for Danish citizens’.”
Hornsleth’s manager, Frederik Mygind, acknowledges the negative reviews, many of which can be found on the nightclub’s own Facebook page.
“We are aware of this, and we take it very seriously. Hornsleth Bar does in no way support any form of discrimination, and the security staff [involved] have been suspended,” he said.
In defence of the club’s strict door policy, Mygind explained that Hornsleth “only allows guests entry if we deem them able to contribute to the atmosphere and party in a positive manner.” (PM)