The famous Danish Freetown Christiania was founded in 1971 when a group of hippies took over abandoned military barracks and their surrounding along the Copenhagen Christianshavn canals, and developed it to an alternative society with own set of rules, independent of the government. This social experiment that included collective ownership has over the years developed and established its semi-legal status. Today the enclave’s user rights have been terminated by Danish state.
After the military moved out, the area was only guarded by a few watchmen and there was sporadic trespassing of homeless people using the empty buildings. On September 4th 1971, inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhood broke down the fence to take over parts of the unused area as a playground for their children.
Although the takeover was not necessarily organised in the beginning, some claim this happened as a protest against the Danish government. At the time there was a lack of affordable housing in Copenhagen.
On the 26th of September 1971, Christiania was declared open by Jacob Ludvigsen, a well-known provo (a Dutch counterculture movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait) and journalist. Ludvigsen wrote an article in which he and five others went on exploration into what he termed: ‘The Forbidden City of the Military’. The article widely announced the proclamation of the free town. In 1971, Ludvigsen co-authored the Christiania’s mission statement:
“The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.”
The spirit of Christiania quickly developed into one of the hippie movement, the squatter movement, collectivism and anarchism, in contrast to the site’s previous military use.
Today, the commune is partially self-governing, and its members pay taxes to the state, but it still applies own rules such as: no cars, no stealing, no guns, no bullet-proof vests, no hard drugs. The stands on the infamous Pusher Street, where until 2004 one could buy hash openly at, are gone today, but the cameras are still not allowed here. On top of that, the ban on smoking in public spaces is not respected here.
Christiania has its own flag, and even its own currency; the Løn.
The approximately 850 citizens of Christiania work as artisans. Also, the famous Christiania Bikes are produced here. The inhabitants drive also meditation centra, cafés, restaurants, and a couple of music night clubs. Many houses that were built, painted and decorated by their first inhabitants, became historical objects.
Christiania is unique; one of its kind in the world, and for many people became a symbol of Danish liberal lifestyle. The Town can only be entered through its two main entrances.
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