The art of protesting (for the sake of protesting)

by: Tim Anderson (

'You destroyed our party-house quite some time ago and we, well, protest that it wasn't really a nice thing that you did'

Wandering home yesterday evening, I came across this week's Ungdomshuset protest. They happen every Thursday, so it's not that novel. Still, it was mildly amusing to watch for a short while.

'now class, after today's lesson on how to stage an effective demonstration, for homework I'd like you to go give it a try...'

I have mixed views on these protests. On one hand, I really like the spirit of the ongoing demonstrations in the name of the now demolished Ungdomshuset ('Youth House') in Copenhagen . I like that there is a group of young people still standing up and making noise about what happened - not necessarily because I think the government was entirely without rights to do what they did - there was a justification for kicking the inhabitants out of the building and allowing the new owners who had bought the place some time back to demolish the place.

However I also think it was a boneheaded move on the government's part - one that pretty much anybody knew would create a backlash resulting in more reoccurring trouble than it was worth.

Because Ungdomshuset was an outlet and a symbol. And it still is. It's not like most regularly frequented the place. In choosing to target a symbol, the government was asking for a backlash. It's not like your average 14 to 16 year old (the average age of the protesters, these days) typically has more pressing matters to attend to on any given Thursday evening. Rather, the demonstrations are cheap entertainment for them and a chance to hang out with their friends.

if you missed it this week, feel free to join next Thursday...

I especially love the 'Jagtvej' stickers, designed to look like street signs, that have been stuck on countless street signs all around Copenhagen ('Jagtvej being the street where Ungdomshuset was located on). But then I've always had a soft spot for clever street art, cultural spamming, ad hacking and so forth.

'it's easy to get to our place - just go down Jagtvej until you get to Jagtvej, turn left, then take your next left on Jagtvej, continue 100m to Jagtvej, then take another left when you come to Jagtvej...'

I also find it amusing that the police take these protests so seriously - it really encourages the dissenters to keep staging them - but then again, just like the young protesters, it's not like the police in Copenhagen have that much else to do that is more pressing, most of the time. At least the police don't wander around the entire time with their riot helmets on - they just keep them close by at their side.

On the other hand, one must also acknowledge that it's really just protest for the sake of protest. There is nothing the government will ever realistically do that would or could satisfy the supposed demands of those protesting. Personally, I hope the protesters eventually just find another venue - persumably a somewhat derelict place - to call their own and start staging events there. Just as they did at the old Ungdomshuset.

Anyway, perhaps my favourite moment, in watching today's protest, was watching a handful of protesters following around a few rather obvious plain-clothes policemen (obvious, since they were wearing very visible ear-pieces) with a big sign that said 'civil betjent ('civilian officer'). After a while, the police couldn't resist grabbing the sign, breaking it in two, and slapping one of the guys holding it with a fine. Surely an overreaction on their part, but like said, they're also pretty bored most of the time.

The Ungdomshuset protests will eventually taper off and stop, but not for some time yet.

'l'm going to give this plain clothes officer a hard time'

'And for giving us a hard time, we'll give you a fine! How do you like that?'...

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