Thousands protest against Mohammed film in front of US Embassy

Large gathering remains peaceful and a heavy police presence did not have to respond to any trouble

Thousands of people turned up in Østerbro on a windy Sunday afternoon to take part in a peaceful demonstration against the controversial film 'Innocence of Muslims' which has catalysed much recent violence and unrest.  A similar demonstration was held at the same location three weeks ago.

The demonstrators had congregated next to Parken Stadium on Øster Allé in Østerbro before slowly walking up towards Trianglen intersection. From there they turned down Østerbrogade and continued to Dag Hammarskjölds Allé, where the US Embassy is located.

The procession was led by a small truck from which a man with a bull horn shouted various slogans similar to those on the signs toted by the people following behind. “We approve of freedom of speech, but not to the abuse of it”, “Insult belongs to an uncivilised society”, “Live in peace and let others lie in peace”, and “Freedom of speech with responsibility” were some of the messages conveyed by the protesters, many of whom also carried Danish flags.

The speaker criticised the US and the UN for permitting a film that was a “visual and verbal form of terrorism [that] threatened peace and provided fodder to radicals”.

The long line of demonstrators, who were escorted by the police, stretched out for several hundred metres. The women holding up the rear were separated from the men, as was the case three weeks ago when the Scandinavian wing of the Islamic political organisation Hizb-ut-Tahrir organised a similar demonstration in front of the embassy denouncing ‘Innocence of Muslims’.

Event organiser Shahzad Akram said that he expected an even larger crowd (Photo: Christian Wenande)But although there was a vehicle driving around with a Hizb-ut-Tahrir banner, event spokesman Shahzad Akram told The Copenhagen Post that Hizb-ut-Tahrir was not involved in organising Sunday’s rally.

Akram further indicated that the 2-3,000 people present were a considerably lower number than he had predicted, blaming blustery winds and insufficient promotion of the event.

“We had expected about 5,000 or 6,000 people today, but the demonstration wasn’t promoted very well, so many people didn’t know about it,” Akram said. “Generally we are here to demonstrate people’s right to express themselves, but to do so without insulting others.”

The police had turned up in mass, but were not forced into employing their dozen or so riot vans that were parked outside the US Embassy.

As was the case three weeks ago, the US Embassy warned US citizens in Denmark to stay away from the embassy, while its employees had been instructed to do the same.