Pubdate: Sun,  4 Jan 2004
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2004 Associated Press
Author: Jan M. Olsen


COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Residents who openly bought and sold hashish at a
famous hippie enclave in Copenhagen abruptly demolished their booths on
Sunday, trying to head off a government crackdown on illegal drug sales.

Drugs are illegal in Denmark but sales of hashish in the enclave, called
Christiania, are tolerated. Residents banned the sale of harder drugs in

Many of Christiania's residents believe the drug crackdown will lead to the
eviction of some 1,000 residents and the realization of government plans to
redevelop the 84-acre area for upscale housing. Residents said they were
trying to pre-empt any government action by dismantling Pusher Street, as
the hashish-selling area is known.

"We don't want (Pusher Street) to be a lever for the government's illegal
and amoral plans to close our Christiania," they said in a statement.

Using a tractor, crow bars, saws and hammers, dealers and residents tore
down two dozen colorful booths that have stood along the sparsely paved but
well-traveled Pusher Street for years.

Last month, a government lawyer reported that residents could be legally
evicted from the enclave because the Danish state gave them the right to
borrow the land - not rent it - in 1989.

Christiania took root in 1971 when dozens of hippies moved into the derelict
18th-century fort on state-owned land behind the capital's old ramparts.

They proclaimed their freewheeling society Christiania and it became a
counterculture oasis with psychedelic-colored buildings, free marijuana, no
government, no cars and no cops.

In 1987, Christiania was recognized as a "social experiment" and in 1989 the
government gave residents the right to use the land, but not ownership of

Christiania has become a tourist destination, with some travel guides
mentioning it prominently, and Pusher Street appears on several city maps.
In May, one of the booths that sold hashish was donated to Denmark's
National Museum.

Since the Liberal-Conservative government took office in 2001, it has
promised to end the open sale of hashish and "normalize" the area by

Police have in recent months increased the number of raids to stop the drug
deals, and residents have been split over eliminating the sales completely.
Police estimate illegal hashish sales bring the community about $1.3 million
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