Sunday, January 18, 2004


This is a sad story.

The hash sellers of Denmark's famed Christiania Freetown dramatically burned their own stands on the community's Pusher Street Sunday afternoon. The self-immolating move came in response to increasing pressure from the Danish government to crack down on soft drug sales in the enclave, which has been an autonomous, self-governing community since hippies swarmed into an abandoned military base in downtown Copenhagen in 1971.

The original settlement of squatters eventually became Christiania, an independent community that throve over the years.

"In Christiania, in the middle of a modern Western city, an alternative economy, society and life style has been created, which involves much more than only an alternative drug policy. It has survived several attacks from both illegal and legal interest groups, and although it has been forced to give up some of its ideals, it has also become an integrated part of the city and the region,"

...Since its establishment three decades ago, Christiania has become a global counterculture icon, with its open cannabis sales, its psychedelic spirit, its radical democracy, and also for what it lacks: cars, police and government. Christiania residents banned hard drugs in 1979, and the Danish government regularized the 84-acre, 1000 strong community's status a decade later. While tensions between Christiania and the Danish state have risen and fallen over the years -- a 1976 effort to shut it down was countered by tens of thousands of anarchists from all over Europe -- the current Danish government announced last month that it could legally evict Christiania's residents, and that has raised alarms in the enclave and among its supporters worldwide.

Denmark's first conservative government in some 30 years apparently feels the country would be better served by banishing the present residents and re-developing the area into luxury condos. Unsubstantiated rumor has it that the US government and Swedish prohibitionists have influenced the government's new policy about the town.

All is not lost however.

Christianians are plotting a survival strategy, said "mother of Christiania" Britte Lillesoe.

...."It may get worse," conceded Lillesoe, "but we will stay. This is so strange. We banned hard drugs here in 1979 because prohibition made the crime come in. Our solution was to throw out the dealers, but we said cannabis was okay. It's a soft drug, so you can push it if you keep the hard drugs out. And we said you can sell it only on Pusher Street. It got bigger and bigger because nothing happened elsewhere. Now the right-wing government has closed hash clubs in Copenhagen, and the customers come here. I'm just an old hippie and we're just a little tiny place that tried to set the best example for ending prohibition," she said.

And so they have. It looks like greed and corporate interests are attempting to trump personal freedom and common sense once again. I'm rooting for the residents of this 'free town'. Save Christiania.


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