An eye-witness account of the 'riot' events of last week in Copenhagen

My good friend Marcin ended up caught in the 'Ungdomshuset support' melee, and has written an excellent firsthand account of what he witnessed and experienced happening on the streets of Norrebro in Copenhagen during the demonstrations on Thursday and Friday night. His account says it all (and definitely says something about how it is to live in Copenhagen) and strikes me as a little more nuanced and informative then the way the events were portrayed on television - particularly by the 'live-on-the-scene' reporters. Marcin's description is so enlightening (and entertaining) that I've quoted it below. So here's what he wrote - enjoy!

"Pamplona has its bull running, Manila its crucifixion reenactments, and Copenhagen its royal weddings...and occasional street riots.
So what follows is a small, subjective eyewitness account about being in Norrebro on Thursday and Friday night.

I think Tim's comment comes very close to explaining the cause of all the 'ballede': "opportunists using the Ungdomshuset controversy to attract attention to themselves".

I would probably add killing boredom as another their other motivation.

But a couple of things were just as interesting to note:

Bystanders opened up. Even if it meant that they approached you to share comments like "are we in the Gaza strip or something?" Still it was a genuinely spontaneous reaction. Or hand out some beers to strangers on the street from a ground-floor apartment's window. So making friends was easy. But maybe it was exactly due to the beer, which c
ontinued to pour from places like 7-11 on Norrebrogade till early morning hours. Well, who cares that there's a 'barricade' (a word the media just loved to use in the coverage) burning on the street. Inside your 7-11 you'll always find your late night treat of beer, cigs and sausages.

A completely grotesque situation, but perhaps on par with sights like
people waiting for the light to change to cross 3am, despite all car traffic being diverted from the area. Again, maybe I'm too picky because that is a perfectly rational behavior - which insurer would pay you if you crossed at red and something happened to you actually?

And how did the about 600 or so people got arrested? Well, I saw a couple of idiots getting cuffed for throwing some junk into fires, kicking phone booths etc. They completely deserved it, but I reckon they were out by afternoon the next day, possibly even with a nice warm big mac, courtesy of the police (

But apparently you could also end up in jail simply by not being a fast enough runner. Those enjoying the concert at Skt. Hans Torv had to show some pretty impressive sprinting skills after tear gas containers ended up right in the middle of the crowd, pretty much unannounced. Some stubborn guys decided to confront the police but they literally were taken away, one by one, within minutes.

Meanwhile, those across the street could enjoy a tasty shawarma before peacefully finding their way to the next fire. And only to have to run away again before too long - such was the night.

What was my impression of the riots?

Safe. That has to be said. Safety is a trademark of Copenhagen, and even with 'riots' on, the probability of something bad happening to you was slight, unless you of course you were asking for trouble.

Boring after a while. Lots of teenagers and tourists, and perhaps some disoriented locals. Everyone waiting for some 'action'. Everyone taking photos like crazy.

And my motivation? Pure curiosity."

Nice one - thanks Marcin!

For more about the Ungdomshuset events you can read about media coverage of the story here, the peaceful demonstrations and what the whole mess was about here, or watch an amusing video of a couple of the demonstrators getting arrested here).

An article referring to this one called Copenhagen: Riots in the streets appeared on Shortcut: A European City Blog.

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