We should’ve guessed that our trip to Christiania was going to be different that day when, as we were walking alongside the river, ten riot vans rushed past us, sirens wailing and all.

I, along with a few peers, had just walked out of a fascinating lecture on Scandinavian mythology. Before that I didn’t know that macho one-liners were already used in the Icelandic Sagas, a thousand years before Schwarzennegger was even born. Because phrases like “this spear looks good in my skull” were far too much to handle even for the biggest action fans of us, we opted to have a few beers down at the uni’s cafeteria. Enter “M”.

“M” is an Estonian girl I had met by chance on Facebook a week earlier. She lives in Malmö. For those of you who are geographically challenged – Malmö is in Sweden. This is why she’s not particularly happy about having to commute to Copenhagen for her classes. So it came to be that we, tired as we were of Copenhagen’s routine and cleanliness, decided to head for Christiania for some coffee, refuge and some more beer.

We sort of figured, judging by the route the police column was taking, that their destination was Freetown Christiania. It made sense, seems as Christiania is a tad bit too free for the authorities’ liking. Of course, Denmark is by far a more liberal country than Estonia, but even here some laws still exist.

When we finally turned a corner on the dodgy alley right next to Christiania, we indeed saw that, aside from its regular inhabitants, the place was swarming with the boys in blue. As we were simply shopping for coffee, we proceeded undeterred straight to Nemoland, only to be chased away by the very-Danish prices. Christiania may be a hippie town, but capitalism still reigns supreme.

After some wandering around the many colourful bends of the self-proclaimed autonomous republic, we eventually settled at “Woodstock” for some much-needed warmth. Warm it was indeed, especially the barman. Or he may just have been very, very drunk.

M was chatting away when I suddenly noticed the crowds getting more restless outside. Earlier, as we were walking along Pusher street, we’d been told by a street vendor that there was indeed a police raid in progress, and that someone had been arrested. Despite the high-profile police presence, things were still quite calm as the vendor handed us our “Christiania” eco-brews.

But now, there was definitely something going down and little did we know that we were about to witness something Christiania hadn’t seen in a long while.

We hurried out of the bar to get closer to the street the cops had cordoned off. Some bystander was just telling us how someone had been nicked and that the police were about to leave, when I noticed the crowds get progressively louder. And then I saw why.

Instead of turning around and driving out into the Kingdom of Denmark, a large wire shield covered riot van started inching forward, further into Pusher street. The crowd was having none of that, and had already blocked the street with a heavy bench. Seeing that they were not going to disperse so easily, the police climbed out of their van and started clearing the way, grenade launchers strapped to their vests. And as we all know from Chekhov’s work – you don’t put a gun on the stage unless it’s gonna go “bang”.

I don’t know who threw the first rock, but pretty soon the riot van was being bombarded with various projectiles. After a short while (that is, after being hit in the leg with a bottle) I decided to comply with the cops and we joined the anxious crowds, the action suits close behind on our tail. Curiosity, however, got the best of me and, after M’s initial reluctance, we stuck around to see the events unfold, just a short distance away from where the van was.

Now, being quite new to the whole riot scene, I failed to follow the first rule of unruly mobs, which is – when you see people run, you run with them. It wasn’t until I saw a group of policemen in riot gear dash past me and the white contrails of teargas fill the air that I figured the people must be running for a reason. To be truthful, we didn’t really go on the move until we discovered just exactly why teargas is such an effective means for dispersing crowds.

We finally stopped at a riverbank, harbored safely between the many small improvised dwellings that litter Christiania. M was still trying to convince me how, in dire situations, instincts always come before curiosity, but I reckon she must’ve been secretly happy about this little adventure, seems as the likelihood of getting into a riot, as well as the likelihood of anything else interesting happening is far lower in Malmö. Our discussion was cut short though as the teargas caught up with us and we had to escape it’s invisible grip once more.

* * *

We re-entered Christiania just fifteen minutes later, after having been forced across a small bridge to the other side of the river. We stood there, bewildered as we were and questioning our own sanity, because the place looked as if nothing had happened. There was not a trace of the cops and the people were going about their daily business of singing, drinking and general merrymaking. We joined that merrymaking and reclaimed our table at “Woodstock”, the gas now having given way to an all too familiar thick sweet smell.

.

Advertisements