Sunday, August 27, 2017

Could Christiania Be a Kind Communities Model?

Following the Velo-city conference in mid-June, I traveled to Denmark to visit a few communities with potential for becoming models for One Street's Kind Communities program. Surprisingly, the one community I thought would not make the cut was the only one that did – Christiania.

For those not familiar with Christiania, it is an autonomous community started in the 1970s when random squatters jumped the fence of an abandoned military base in downtown Copenhagen. Since then, people who chose to live there have cooperated so that their current population of 850 can live amiably together.

Unfortunately, this includes drug dealers. During my visit and wonderful discussions with long-time residents, including one of the original founders of the bike shop, I learned why this problem is so entrenched. The original squatters were adamant about keeping this taken land separate from Danish and even European laws including allowing the sale and use of drugs, now restricted to hash and pot. Since then, residents have realized this was a mistake as they endure the violence and degradation around the drug dealing area they call Pusher Street right at the main entry.

Even after purchasing the land from the city in 2012 and thus legitimizing the community, city officials have allowed the drug trade to continue there in order to keep it contained and away from other neighborhoods. When I heard this, all I could think was that Christiania is being used by the city, not respected as a true neighborhood where such a problem would garner serious assistance toward a solution.

Even so, the residents and leaders of Christiania continue their efforts to abolish the drug dealers who have stained their reputation. Their concerted effort, including working with the drug dealers themselves, actually added to my realization that this community could indeed become a model for Kind Communities.

What do you think? Have you had experience with Christiania? Do you think it could make the cut? Please read more about our Kind Communities program at www.OneStreet.org then email your thoughts to sue{at}onestreet.org.

Sue

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