Pubdate: Wed, 17 Mar 2004
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Leyla Linton
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


The hippy enclave Christiania in Copenhagen was raided by Danish police 
yesterday in an early-morning crackdown on the sale of hashish, leading to 
the arrest of 53 people.

The raid marked a toughening of the authorities' attitude towards the 
community, an oasis of psychedelic-coloured buildings without government, 
cars or police. Residents banned the sale of harder drugs in 1980, but 
hashish has remained widespread.

Yesterday about 200 police officers moved into the 84-acre enclave at 5am 
in an operation which also included a series of raids on homes in the city. 
Helmeted officers tore down a few small woodsheds and removed some tables 
that were said to have been used to sell hashish.

Flemming Steen Munch, a spokesman for Copenhagen's police, said: "The raid 
is not against Christiania, it's against the hashish sale." Mr Munch 
promised that those people arrested would be charged with selling drugs and 
could face sentences of up to 10 years in jail.

Ministers claimed that they were not trying to target the community itself, 
and pledged that they will allow its residents to remain there as long as 
drug dealing is eliminated. But the Danish government, which relies on one 
far-right party for support, has taken an increasingly tough line on law 
and order issues and illegal immigration.

Yesterday's raid is the latest in a long-running guerrilla battle between 
the police and the Christiania community. In January, hashish dealers 
demolished their sales booths to avoid a crackdown they feared would lead 
to their eviction and end theunique Danish social experiment. Although the 
booths had disappeared, hashish was still being sold.

In fact, since January of last year 1,903lbs of hashish, estimated to be 
worth about Dkr45m (UKP4m), have been seized.

After yesterday's show of police force, Ole Wagner Hansen, the head of the 
department's drug squad, said police had seized some hashish but could not 
say how much.

Peter Plett, a spokesman for the more than 900 residents of the enclave, 
criticised the police actions. Mr Plett said: "The whole thing is a big 
media stunt. We have decided not to do anything unless they start tearing 
down our houses."

During the raid officers used ladders to dismantle store awnings along 
Christiania's Pusher Street, where vendors were selling hashish. Other 
officers tore down woodsheds of alleged drug dealers and removed parked 
bicycles before police lorries cleared rocks that residents had put up as 
road blocks to prevent cars from entering the area.

Yesterday's police crackdown was part of a nine-month investigation into 
illegal drug sales at Christiania, Mr Munch said. In recent months, police 
have carried out a dozen smaller raids.

The government has said that Christiania could remain an 
alternative-lifestyle community as long as residents obeyed the law, paid 
rent and stopped selling drugs.

The enclave took root in 1971 when dozens of hippies moved into a derelict 
18th-century fort on state-owned land. In 1987 Christiania, the name 
residents gave to the fort, was recognised as a "social experiment" and 
people living there were later given the right to use the land, but not 
permitted ownership. The government now wants to end that agreement.
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