In September there was a big riot in Copenhagen. People went crazy over the closing of an old punk venue. It was the kind of thing the mainstream media would be ecstatic to get the inside scoop on. But since they had been slagging off the punks, everyone with a camera was a pariah. Of course, we didn’t know that and couldn’t understand why no one would go and film it for us. So in the end we sent our distribution guy Ivar down there to get a piece of the action. This is his story...
One of my friends, Robin, is a crazy anarchist who lives in a basement, subsists on a strict booze diet, and fixes cars for a living. He is the truest punk I know. Some weeks ago he called to tell me that the Danish punk stronghold Ungdomshuset (The Youth House) was about to get shut down by the government.
The building was handed to the founders of Ungdomshuset by the City Council in the early eighties, but since the mid-nineties the council have been trying to take it back. In 2001 it was sold to a religious sect called Faderhuset (The Father House). Faderhuset think it’s their God-given mission to evict the punks. They think punks are the spawn of Satan.
Unlike CBGBs, Ungdomshuset is still a big deal to punks all over northern Europe. Even kids as young as 11 or 12 stay there. Robin told me that this would be my last chance to see it, before everyone got evicted. He also said there was going to be a wild party that would most likely end up in riots. I’m not a man to turn down a good party so I grabbed my crappy Disneyworld/Majorca/family vacation type camcorder and got in the car.
When we arrived the police had already shut down the entire block around Ungdomshuset, but Robin knew a shortcut so we got in through the backyard. Inside there were a mix of hipsters, punks, hip hop kids, reggae dudes, anarchists, rockers, indie kids and punks all peacefully partying. No sign of a riot yet. I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about - until the Sunday rally.
As soon as we joined the march I saw a bottle whizzing overhead. Then bottles and stones started raining down on the police who were about 75 metres in front of me. Almost immediately, the police started running towards us. I started poking around for the camcorder as I ran into the mayhem, trying to get it all on tape. I got to the frontline and saw about 260 youngsters getting arrested. The Danish police are renowned for their riot control capabilities. They had already trapped almost everyone between two houses and after that they just grabbed people one by one.
I hurried back to the Ungdomshuset to find out what was going on, but no one seemed to have a clue. Also, everyone had a friend who had just been arrested so they weren’t too keen on interviews. So I got a six-pack, plopped myself down by a bonfire and watched people preparing for war.
They were convinced the police were going to storm the building that night. There was a meeting where they discussed riot tactics. A medieval-looking log was propped up against the inside of the front door. Trash cans and pallets were set on fire and positioned to block the entry of the police. There was tension. No one spoke. Everyone was just waiting for the war to start.
In the end, the police never showed up but it was still a fun weekend (even though I managed to get my teeth knocked out by a punk who didn’t approve of me filming him).