Quiet Copenhagen was again rocked by riots last week, as police made a record 437 arrests in the Danish capital and used tear gas to disperse a crowd of several thousand—some of whom threw stones and smoke bombs. The problems began in March, when new owners demolished the Youth House—or Ungdomshuset— an iconic Danish squat, long used by leftists for meetings, concerts and, occasionally, housing for visiting anarchists. Violent demonstrations have been ongoing ever since, says Mads Bunch, a lecturer in Danish culture and language at the University of British Columbia. In this most recent clash, protesters were attempting to occupy Copenhagen’s vacant waterworks—as a replacement to “The House.” There must be something in the Tuborg.
Sure, Denmark is part of the bike-loving, social democratic, Scandinavian hub. Yet there is also a less well-known tradition of street protest and left-wing militancy—starting with demonstrations against the 1970 World Bank meeting in Copenhagen, organized by various radical leftist movements and Maoist parties. (There was even a Danish parallel to Germany’s Red Army Faction, the Blekingegadebanden, that funded organizations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine through bank robberies.)
Copenhageners have traditionally supported the storied House, which has played host to socialist superstars like Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin, and, more recently, to musical acts like Björk and Nick Cave. But this is changing. Citizens have had their cars burnt and their property smashed, says Bunch; Copenhagen is growing weary of the constant turmoil. “Now various protest movements meet the young people when they protest.” Yet protesting may soon pay off; Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard appears willing to meet the young activists, and find a new house. M
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