Last time you were here we talked all about my visit to Christiania, a commune located in Copenhagen where the laws are a little different when it comes to cannabis. If you didn’t read part one and want to get an idea of what it’s like to visit now then go back and have a read. If you are just here for the amazing history of the place then let’s get to it. Christiania, also known as Freetown, is an exceptional piece of still-living history that proves humans are capable of living as a collective. Well some humans are, I would be rubbish at it. I pretty much put all my effort into becoming a writer specifically so I wouldn’t have to work in person with other people. However, if you like other people and crave a simple, comfortable life then perhaps a commune-like Christiania would suit you down to the ground. Anyway, let’s have a look at how this amazing place came to be and the history that shaped it.
Christiania was founded in 1971 and its origin is just as romantic as you would hope. The area was primarily abandoned military barracks that a group of young artists and freedom-loving squatters decided to move in. They named it the ‘free zone’ and it was decided that the usual Danish laws didn’t apply there. Obviously, that’s a pretty massive thing to just decide and that’s not really how the law works. However, the commune soon blossomed as more and more free-loving long-haired hippies flocked to the free zone. It was a place for all who considered themselves a part of the 70s hippy movement, or thought themselves to be outside the social norms. The place was full of artists, poets, feminists, anarchists, writers and, funnily enough, stoners. Initially, the concept worked and the authorities thought it unnecessary to enter the area and enforce normal laws. The residents weren’t going full purge with it and breaking every law in the book, just a couple of sillier ones that no one was really fussed about.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the military became unhappy with old barracks being adopted by people who so thoroughly went against everything they stood for. In 1976 a legal case was brought against Christiania with the intention of immediately removing everyone from the base. This wasn’t the only thing that was going a bit sideways for Freetown at the time. As with anything like this where drugs are involved there are going to be a few issues getting started. The area may now have a strict no drug other than weed policy, but at the time this was not the case. Roughly 10 citizens had died of overdoses by the late 70s. This was, however, what drove the residents to bring on intense action against hard drugs with what was known as the ‘Junk Blockade’. For a few months, the residents searched out those dealing harder drugs while also supporting the addicts in the community.
I’d love to say these were the last issues faced by the commune, but unfortunately, most people are horrible. There were inevitably going to be those that sought to use Christiania to gain power, make money, and find new customers. In the 80s this led to a few groups of bikers attempting to take over the drug market in Christiania. I won’t go too hard into this aspect of the history because it gets nasty, but suffice to say there were a few gangs involved, a couple of corpses, and an intense response from the Christiania community. From then on biker jackets or symbols were no longer allowed within the barracks.
Things were relatively peaceful for a long time until the fatal shooting in the early 2000s. Again, people are stupid and where there is the potential for power and domination some lose their heads. Or in this case, one lost their life and others were injured in a gang shooting. Yes, this was once again related to the drug market though this time purely cannabis. It wasn’t until 2007 that Christiania faced a real issue with the police when a small building was to be demolished and the residents felt that this may be the start of the systematic destruction of their commune. The whole thing was a muddle of residents fighting back, being teargassed, protesting, being arrested, and in one interesting case throwing a bucket of piss at an officer.
There are quite a few more incidents that went down between then and now but I don’t want this to just be a complete focus on the negative. Where people try to have freedom from laws there will always be those who take advantage. However, there are a lot of incredible things about Christiania that don’t often get focused on.
Though living in Christiania isn’t the same as it once was and now is quite expensive for the occupants if they want to remain un-molested by the government, it’s still a beautiful community. It is extremely echo-friendly and as I wandered around the suburbs I saw a lot of specialised recycling, solar panels, and other alternative energy sources. Hopefully, though in theory, the government can only call the area a ‘social experiment’ for so long, the area will be protected by the sheer amount of tourism it brings. Danish people are now extremely proud of Freetown and it’s a major tourism point for everyone, not just stoners.
The area is racially diverse, which is something I honestly didn’t see a lot of generally in Copenhagen, eco-friendly and proof that humans can come together and create sets of rules that benefit and protect the inhabitants. Honestly, the fact that they have survived till now is extraordinary considering the issues they have faced.
I personally don’t think the government would be able to close it down if they tried. It has become an absolute staple of Copenhagen and I believe that both the inhabitants of Christiania and the population of Copenhagen would take to the streets if Christiania was ever threatened by the Danish government.
Written by Tasha Porritt
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