Copenhagen saw riots yesterday (AP: Up to 300 Protesters Detained in Denmark). I was there. Lots of bits and pieces of information is rumbling around inside my head right now, so I might as well spill it out and set them straight.
My 16th of December
I was at a concert the night before. Long irrelevant story, but I couldn't find my bike but met an old friend and ended up walking along Nørrebrogade with her. She's going to take a turn east so we're standing on a corner sharing the last few personal events from our lives since ages ago when last time we met. Suddenly people start running towards us from Runddelen. Lots of people. We take refuge right around the corner. We talk a bit and then she leaves. I walk back to see what's happening.
There is people everywhere. At this point I would have to make a wild guess at 1500-2000. But nine out of ten is just standing, staring. About 20 armored police cars are driving towards Ungdomshuset from all streets around it. Behind each is a phalanx of combat dressed cops. In front of Ungdomshuset is still a large group of protesters, some lighting fires in the street, some throwing stones at the police.
Other cops are making bystanders, calm sympathisers of the demonstration, witnesses walk away from the scene. I had to walk back a few hundred metres too, so I didn't get a close look at the police attack, but I'm sure it was a brutal victory. In the short run. Because most protesters had obviously escaped in all directions. The following minutes saw a couple of brief cobble stone attacks and a few fires in the streets. Someone must have read the manual on guerrilla warfare because it appeared basically a handful of people were entertaining the police for hours.
After about two hours I guess, the mass of demonstrators, curious people and sympathisers where largely confined to the area right in front of Ungdomshuset. The fires in the streets elsewhere were being extinguished by a fireman crew. So the police pulled back and stayed observant. Good idea, because yesterday was a clear demonstration of how counter productive any police raid can really be. Each time they make a full warfare like strike, it attracts more audience. And each time they baton and hand-cuff some 15 years old punk kid, it creates more sympathisers among the previously neutral witnesses.
I met many old friends in the crowd. People from high school I have hardly seen in a decade. Two of these had seen the initial police attack on the actual demonstration. Because it was actually a peaceful demonstration to begin with. It was supposed to start in Ungdomshuset and end in Christiania - the two last symbols of the threatened underground culture in Denmark. But as far as I have been told it was attacked either because some of the demonstrators were masked and/or because no-one wanted to give in their name to the police and register as a responsible arranging the demonstration.
Whatever the reason, the demonstration was massacred by the police not more than perhaps a hundred metres from Ungdomshuset. My two friends had been watching that. The funniest thing they told was about the police teargassing themselves. The street is not too wide so it must have been quite chaotic at the front line as some n00b cop fires a tear gas grenade right into the battle field without any other cops wearing gas masks. About twenty cops had had to make an escape and run for it. They came back to cry and vomit at the spot my friends were using to peek at the action from. (Danish tear gas is the strongest in the world. Only Israel uses the same stuff.)
Anyway, we hang out for a couple of hours having a few beers. The kids in Ungdomshuset set up a pair of speakers and blast out tracks like We're not gonna take it and Fight for your right. A punk party was planned for the night, but I don't know if they pulled through with it. I get a message on the phone saying my bike is parked outside a friend's house. Cursing about it I leave in the direction of the city with my two buddies.
About halfway there some policemen stop me. Detained, §6, body search. Why? Because they had spotted a Ungdomshuset banner sticking out of my pocket. I had just picked it up from the battlefield debris as a kind of souvenir. So, basically you risk arrest wearing Ungdomshuset paraphernalia. Some paragraphs have goone loose.
We stop by a friend of a friend's house to watch the news. Headline: ALL SYMPATHY GONE. What? What we had just experienced was a lot of sympathy from all kinds of people in the streets. Direct transmission from reporter in the street right outside Ungdomshuset: "They are hiding out inside. Who knows if they will get violent later when they have had more alcohol. My information is uncertain." (Not a precise translation! Vaguely rephrased from memory.) Your information? What information? That reporter was basically making up some crazy story. They call themselves TV2 NEWS - perhaps they should change that to TV2 LIES?
The background info for you and my opinion
The TV station pulling off a strongly politically biassed report is unfortunately not too surprising. The cases of Ungdomshuset and Christiania have become part of a messy right wing attack on anything alternative, non-conformity element of Danish culture. TV2 happily partakes in portraying efficient police work which is exciting violence of the socially acceptable type. Even when what really happened most of the time was just a bunch of punk kids doing mostly harmless fires and grafitti getting chased around by an army of cops.
To add insult to injury, Copenhagen sold the house at a price way below market value to a far right fundamentalist christian sect. It couldn't get worse than that. They use whatever attention their sorry brainwashing club can get to proclaim they are cleaning out the city of demons. Following that sympathisers have chipped in to buy the house back from the sect at a price some US$ 1.5 million above what they got if from the city for. They have declined selling it. Mind boggling. How can a cult turn down such an offer?
And actually, all sympathy is not gone. Far from it. But only one political party is left in open support: My Enhedslisten :) Morten Kabell told Politiken (my translation):
The kids are frustrated about loosing the house. I understand that but I personally wouldn't have acted by rioting. I don't support rioting but by principle I support Ungdomshuset. If the police hadn't attacked it wouldn't have gone so far. Also, it is deeply problematic that the police has arrested a journalist from TV2. That raises suspicion they have something to hide.
The leading cop, Flemming Steen Munck, a hardliner compared to his predecessor, is saying something weird to Ekstra Bladet (my translation):
They were only allowed to leave the house so we could confine them.
Is it just me or is that contradictory with the demonstration being attacked because it later violated something?
I don't have time to write any more. But I got most of it down here. Feel free to ask. Also check out the Ungdomshuset website in English.