Pubdate: Sat, 27 Dec 2003
Source: Halifax Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2003 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Roger Boyes, The Times of London


Copenhagen - Christiania, the last independent hippy colony in Europe, is 
to be closed on a legal technicality, a move that seems set to provoke 
street fighting in Copenhagen as drop-outs and drug dealers resist 
government bulldozers.

For more than 30 years the self-governing settlement in the centre of the 
Danish capital has acted as a magnet for those trying to escape the rat race.

The residents of Christiania set up their own city state in a sprawling 
18th-century naval fortress once used as a barracks by the Nazi occupation 

The hippies' economy was almost self-sustaining: pony-tailed craftsmen 
built and sold eccentric bicycles, 24-hour bakeries turned out biologically 
pure bread and carefully tended gardens supplied vegetables. Food was 
traded for make-shift schooling, firewood and roof repair for books: it was 
a primitive free-wheeling bartering economy in the middle of one of 
Europe's most prosperous cities.

But Christiania also became the hub of the capital's trade in soft drugs - 
sold freely on Pusher Street - and it was this that stirred successive 
Danish governments to consider a crackdown.

This time, the authorities are serious. Government lawyers have discovered 
that an earlier deal with the hippies, struck in 1989, merely gives the 
residents the right to borrow the land, not to rent it.

Christiania had been recognised as a "social experiment' 'in 1987, but two 
years later it was made clear that the use of the land - some 80 acres 
inhabited by about 1,000 people -was a concession rather than a formal 
rental contract.

That freed the way for a cleanup.

The current conservative government coalition has been growing impatient 
with the hippies. Last month the police raided the enclave 146 times, even 
though police are technically supposed to keep their distance.

The live-and-let-live policy, symbolized by the sign hanging over the 
entrance, which declares "No uniforms allowed, no bullet proof vests," is 
crumbling. There have been 459 body searches in the past three weeks and 
cars driving past the colony are regularly searched for drugs.

Popular Danish opinion has been evenly divided over Christiania with many 
regarding it as a harmless offbeat tourist attraction.

But the housing shortage in Copenhagen is swinging Danes behind the idea 
that the large terrain, much of it green parkland, could be better used to 
develop urban housing.

The flower power disciples could be comfortably rehoused and still leave 
space available for others.

On top of that, the drug trade would be brought under control.

But the residents are ready to turn an eviction into a massive act of civil 
disobedience. The last eviction attempt, in 1976, sucked in tens of 
thousands of anarchist sympathizers from across the continent who set up 
barricades and waged war with the police. The aim of the authorities in the 
coming months seems to be to start digging up the streets. Bulldozers will 
be sent into Pusher Street.

The street's drug traders, however, are tough, typically surrounded by 
packs of fierce fighter dogs; they are capable of more than symbolic 
resistance. A hoard of weapons was found recently in a back room in one of 
the dilapidated cottages.

"We are prepared for street fights and civil war-like conditions,' 
'Pernille Hansen, a 29-year-old Christiania resident, said.

"People have had enough of the present government and it won't take much to 
spark full-scale violence."

The community is divided into 15 self-governing districts, each controlled 
by so-called anarchist councils. Reports suggest that they have elaborate 
plans for defence should the police move in.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom