17 December 2009

The Copenhagen Steal

Push and Shove
My friend Ralph, from Campaign to Protect Rural England, and I went for a bike ride and happend upon a demonstration.

If you look past all the climate conference hype in this city and look at the everyday life, it's really bizarre to be a Copenhagener.

All the main hotels are surrounded by concrete barriers, the police prescence is absolutely massive and traffic is disrupted in a seemingly random manner in the course of day. It's not random, of course, but it seems like it. Worth mentioning that whenever streets are cordoned off, bicycles are, as a rule, allowed to pass. 1-0 for human powered machines.

And when entire streets are blocked because a demonstration is on the way, you get to ride out in the middle of the street and experience a reclaim the streets feeling. 2-0.
Cops and Cargo
For me, personally, it's the police prescence that feels rather disturbing. This calm, cool Nordic capital has been transformed into something so far removed from reality. The Danish police don't have enough vans and trucks for this job so we're seeing yellow and blue Swedish police vans and green German vans all over the city. In the case of the latter, 'polizei' is stickered over with 'politi'. It's unnerving in some strange way to see police equipment in the wrong colours. I get a strange sense of occupation.

Last Tuesday was most bizarre for me. I was heading into the city to give some interviews - three a day for the past 10 days - when I saw policemen and vans on a main street leading to the centre. It was a kind of checkpoint.

Then I saw, over at Queen Louise's Bridge the same checkpoint system and the police were pulling over vans and even cyclists to conduct searches.

Along The Lakes was a sight that I haven't been able to shake off. A checkpoint administered by police carrying machine guns. THAT is so completely un-Danish. I wasn't in Copenhagen, I was in some faraway place.

I later learned from a friend - a former policeman - that a major terrorist threat had been picked up. Not activists with bicycles and balaclavas but the hard-core religious fundamentalists. No, not the christian ones, the islamic variety.

Which explains the checkpoints, but it still leaves me rather shaken. I'll be sad to see the world leave our city, but I won't mind seeing the back of the police prescence.

During the massive climate conference demonstration last Saturday, a whole bunch of people were arrested at the tail-end. The way they were treated was appalling and shocking. I did, however, like the headline on one newspaper the next day: "Climate Party - 99,100 people didn't get arrested!"

The police state attitude of the police is something that I'm not proud off. It's madness drawing truncheons and pepper spray on unarmed protesters, as the world - fortunately - saw yesterday.

Which brings us to this video. I blogged previously about how the police confiscated what they called 'war bikes' from The Candy Factory where The Bike Bloc was building them.

This video was filmed inside the building when the police arrived. Have a look at see what doesn't make me a bit proud. The Danish police exercising their new powers under the so-called Lømmelpakken, which are the laws pushed through parliament for this climate conference.


portlandize.com said...

I'm curious, is that set of laws just in effect for the duration of the conference?

Sounds like the Patriot Act in the U.S.

lagatta à montréal said...

It was freakish like that here during the Summit of the Americas in Québec City. Robocops everywhere and people unable to access their own homes or places of work.

I'd be deeply ashamed of the Canadian government, but I confess I don't feel any identification with it. One funny story was some environmentalist hoaxters issuing a "fake" statement in which the Harper government was bowing to international and domestic pressure and revising the current (woeful) reduction promises - no reduction at all really, on the contrary (tar sands).

Ernest said...

Calm, we already know as you are the Danish, and the city of Copenhagen.
For my Copenhagen are a good example in all the meanings.
From Barcelona I see the news of the TV of Copenhagen with a lot of illusion, but also with my particular "filter".
We are supervising you.

Ernest from Barcelona (Catalonia).

kfg said...

Smell the boot.

KDT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KDT said...

The response of police forces to mass protests has become quite predictable. In the short run they tend to be overly agressive, taking more liberties than they're entitled to under the law, and let the courts sort it out in the long run. NYC is still dealing with lawsuits filed after the police reaction to the Republican National Convention -- in 2004.

It's a shame the Politi haven't bothered to exercise those same powers against the drug gangs and Hells Angels/AK81 types. I mean, if you're going to violate the European Convention on Human Rights, you may as well do some good by it.

Kevin Love said...

Do the Danish police normally carry guns?

Anonymous said...

lagatta à montréal,

I was also there in Québec City. The police actions are disturbingly familiar. It is only because people can film the police that situations like the Canadian Taser Boondoggle come to light.

Audric said...

I agree with you that it's so strange to see the police presence, being conveyed through the media in Canada. I spent the earlier half of this year on exchange in Copenhagen, and what I am seeing is worlds away from the city that I knew for a six short months.

The most significant influence of my exchange wasn't studying in a different culture, but just simply being there. Copenhagen has taught me a lot about the environment that I want to live in and the urban spaces I find ideal - studying in Landscape Architecture, I will soon be applying these ideals to projects in a professional capacity. I find it a shame that a similar experience of Copenhagen and of Denmark for the global community isn't possible. There's a lot that can be learned.

- Audric

Mikael said...

Danish police carry guns, yes. They are holstered, with a button snap over them and, as far as i'm aware, they're not permitted to unsnap the button unless they feel that their lives are threatened.

Adrienne Johnson said...

Police are a necessary part of life. I am OK with that. Why can't they be better trained in relating to people?

sheffield cycle chic said...

The authorities overeacting to civil protest is nothing new:


just the manner in which it is done gets more heavy handed over time...

townmouse said...

After the G20 summitt in London earlier this year, the police have taken to putting female officers in command of policing protests (e.g. climate camp in the summer). I'm not sure officially what the outcome has been but we certainly haven't seen so much coverage of hopped-up young men (police and protesters) going head to head... Of course, that could be because all our protesters are over in Copenhagen...

dyrlægen said...



The Jolly Blogger said...

sheffield cycle chic,
Sorry but the Peterloo Massacre was a bit more than over enthusiastic riot police. It was the British Army dealing with an angry mob by riding them down and hacking at them with sabres, the riot police aren't even in the same league as that. The police of today are muzzled and tend to be kept on a tight leash sadly terrorism does wonders for loosening the muzzle and lengthening leash.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that they acted fairly and professionally. No complaints there. Doing their jobs with the tools given to them by the politicians. If you want to complain about the laws criticise the politicians.

section 60ed said...

no... it is similar to the english antiterrorist law that they put in place during the G20 that is called something like Section 60

that basically allow the police to stop and search you anytime they want to search fro weapons and any offendable objects... including knifes small or big, etc...