Human Interest

Christiania, Denmark’s ‘freetown’, turns 50

By Anxo Lamela

Copenhagen, Sep 26 (EFE).- Christiania, Copenhagen’s notorious squatter’s district where cannabis is freely sold and consumed, celebrates its 50th anniversary Sunday while seen as a social experiment for overcoming its conflict with the authorities.

On September 26, 1971, a group of young hippies occupied abandoned military barracks and proclaimed Christiania free of Denmark.

Danish authorities did not take long to react. In 1978, the court ordered Christiania’s residents to vacate the area, leading to massive protests.

It took over ten years, in 1989, for Denmark’s parliament to officially give the right of settlement to the residents of Christiania. But fifteen years later, the law was reformed to nullify the collective right of usufruct of the 34-hectare area (84 acres), located near a canal.

After losing a law suit against the state, Christianites set up a fund that would enable them to formally purchase the commune.

“The fund management does not interfere in Christiania’s decisions, it is the general assembly that continues to decide,” Hulda Mader, a member of the commune’s administration, tells Efe.

The some 900 commune’s inhabitants pay a minimum amount of money for the fund in addition to the rent, which is calculated as per the size of the apartment.

Christiania is often associated with cannabis and Pusher Street, the largest cannabis open market in northern Europe.

Legalizing cannabis has been Christiania’s slogan since its establishment, which came with a market that was initially controlled by the residents but was then managed by outside gangs for years.

Christianites have temporarily shut Pusher Street following acts of violence. In July, a young man was shot dead.

Some say that closing the street would mean the loss of an important source of income for shops, bars, and restaurants in the commune that have people, including tourists, flocking to buy and consume cannabis.

Others point out that the sale of cannabis does not have a direct impact on Christiania, and that it is based on the contributions of its inhabitants.

Christiania, a melting pot of people of diverse nationalities and social classes, has its own bakery, restaurants and nursery, and is considered one of the Danish capital’s famous tourist attractions.

“I cannot imagine a Copenhagen without Christiania. Christiania contributes to making Copenhagen more diverse,” Copenhagen’s mayor Lars Weiss said a few days ago. EFE


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