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Copenhagen: Police tried to stop a demo

youth house | 21.01.2008 16:50 | Free Spaces

Every Thursday since March 1st, 2007 a demo has walked through Copenhagen demanding a new Ungdomshus. Two weeks ago it was decided to move the starting point from Nørrebro to the main shopping area in the inner city.

Last week this resulted in major disruptions of traffic and allowed activist a chance to disrupt a popular live broadcast in national TV.

This week however was a different story. For the first time in quite a while the police sought direct confrontation. An hour before the demo was to start a heavy police presence was reported. As the demonstrators began gathering on a plaza large groups of police officers walked criss-cross through the crowd questioning people, shoving their way through and shouted at the group leading the demo.

When the demo got underway the cops followed not at their usual 20 meters but at 2-3ms, often getting out of the cars to harass members of the demo. When the demo made it clear that it wouldn't accept this behaviour the cops retired to their cars only to have it all repeated five minutes later.

As the demo reached it's end point just outside the most expensive shopping area in Copenhagen, it was quite clear that it wouldn't end peacefully. Several hours of open aggression and provocation from the police combined with a massive police presence on the exit route from the area had angered the demonstrators.

To shouts of "Get the cops in their cars, set the cars on fire!" a spontaneous demo tried to form to transport everybody back to the starting point of the demo. This was however quickly blocked by police being followed by a chaotic back and forth of recklessly driving police vans and activists literally running for their lives. A few bottles were thrown and then the crowd dispersed into smaller groups trying to get away as fast as possible.

The cops proceeded to clean up the streets by sending out "hunting parties" in vans rounding up groups or individual activists. In one case a smaller group of activists get boxed in between cops and the wall of a church. According to an eyewitness one cop shouted "Grab the sticks - it's hunting time!" just before the group was charged and beaten severely.

Several more incidents of extremely violent arrests are reported during the evening - most involve very young people being beaten and put into the illegal "leg-locks". Several of those arrested say that a 14 year old girl was beaten badly on the floor of a police van and had her head rammed against a metal support pillar in the station house.

In the end only 14 people are arrested, all of them between 14 (legally minor) and 17 years of age. They have all been released.

For some months now the police have taken on a very passive role during demos. The shift is very sudden and violent. Why it has happened is uncertain but much speculation connects it with the downward spiral in the negotiations for a new house. The theory is that if a big confrontation can be provoked the city council can politically withdraw their support for negotiations. Whatever the reason the pressure is definitely building.

youth house