Goodbye, Utopia

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In 1971, hippies began squatting on an abandoned naval base in Copenhagen, Denmark, creating a community called Freetown Christiania.

Denizens of the 84-acre commune flouted drug laws, refused to pay their electricity bills, and regarded themselves as bohemians living alternative lifestyles. They adopted their own laws and flag. Community meetings decided on questions of governance by consensus. The Danish government even gave the commune legal status, dubbing it a “social experiment,” explained the BBC.

And for decades, locals and tourists alike were drawn to the district, to wander, hang out in shabby-chic bars and galleries, and smoke a little hash.

Over time, however, addiction and lawlessness in Christiania came to eclipse the flower power. A stretch of the district where drug dealers congregated, for example, became known as Pusher Street. Marijuana is illegal in Denmark, but for decades has been sold openly in Christiania.

The Hells Angels and Loyal to Family, an outlawed Danish street gang, ran the markets, the Associated Press reported, citing police. And police over the years would come into the district to crack down on the markets – even as they would quickly reestablish themselves.

Recently, however, the 1,000 residents who live in Christiania have had enough. They ripped up the cobblestones on Pusher Street in a protest against the drug deals and associated criminality that has festered on the thoroughfare in recent years. Children participated in the family-friendly event where organizers played Pink Floyd’s song “Another Brick in the Wall,” wrote Le Monde.

“We don’t want the gangsters anymore,” Hulda Mader, a Christiania resident for 40 years, told Sky News.

Locals are especially sick and tired of organized crime’s role in the neighborhood. In August, for instance, gunmen shot and killed a 30-year-old man and injured four others in shootings linked to drug trafficking and gangs, reported CNN. Such incidents have become too common.

“For us hash is not the problem, it’s the money in it,” said Mette Prag, a representative of the Freetown Christiania Foundation. “But the last years with all the violence and all the fighting, we cannot have it in our society. That’s why now this chapter must come to an end.”

Passerby magazine ran a feature about Prag that included pictures portraying her fashionable Scandinavian life as an architect living and raising children in the anarchist commune. It was illustrative of how the commune, home to hippies and artists, and welcoming of the down-and-out and the addicted, had in more recent years begun to become more respectable, even bourgeois at times.

Christiania residents want to add new water and utility connections that could help people open new shops and art spaces on Pusher Street, reported the Courthouse News Service. Others wondered if these changes would simply push weed and other drugs and their dealers into the shadows elsewhere. Still other residents are organizing to make marijuana legal throughout Denmark to destroy the illegal networks that now control the trade.

Utopia must change with the times, locals say.

“The crime scene we have seen here has been so violent … we cannot have a Christiania that is dying out because people don’t dare to be here and where we see the local Christianites being threatened by greedy pushers and dealers,” Copenhagen’s mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen told Reuters. “Pusher Street has to die in order for Christiania to live.”

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