As a person living in Nørrebro, the Copenhagen neighbourhood where Ungdomshuset used to be, I’ve witnessed quite a lot in recent years. During the battle over “Ungdomshuset”, when anarchists and other pale kids dressed in black defended their base against the radical Christian community, “Faderhuset” (“Father’s House”), by fighting the police, lots of cars and containers were set on fire, and lots and lots of stores had their windows broken.
The other day a few thousand muslims demonstrated outside the window of my studio. Followers of the religious organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, angry and shouting (calling freedom of speech a “plague”, democracy a “disgrace”) passed by; first a group of men, then a group of women and children. They demonstrated against the republication of Jyllands-postens most notorious Muhammed-cartoon, and they did it in a peaceful manner. But over the last eight days there has been fires on Nørrebro, which quickly spread, first to other parts of Copenhagen, then to other parts of the country. These riots have caused severe damage, according to media reports there have been between 400 and 500 fires, and the damages include a couple of burned-out public schools.
Social workers, police officials, sociologists, etc. unanimously agree that these riots are not caused by the reprint of the Muhammed-cartoon. The original riots began on Nørrebro on Sunday February 10th, and seem to have been caused primarily by children of immigrants, displeased with issues of discrimination and their social situation in general. Though some kids blame the Muhammed-cartoon as the source for their fury, it seems more like the quick’n’easy answer.
When will the riots stop? Last night was relatively calm, but according to outspoken politician Søren Pind (of Denmark’s so-called libertarian, but rather conservative party Venstre), the police has been much too soft: “The police would rather drink thea with the firestarters and rioters, and ask how they feel, rather than making sure that law and order prevails.”
Imams in Copenhagen have tried to reach out to the rioting youngsters, urging them to stop. Politicians from both sides of the Danish Parliament demand of parents to show responsibility. Unfortunately, these riots might stigmatize the kids and their families instead of bringing focus to their situation. Certain officials in charge of social housing are threatening to put riot-implicated families on the street. Sad indeed.
Photo: Michael Bothager. [REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF THE OWNERS]