Sunday, March 02, 2008

Denmark Day 31

Yesterday (Saturday, 01 March) brought another positive sign I'm living in a real city: A full-on political demonstration:

Mire Film Int. Demonstration - 1-3-2008 Denmark 2/7

As I'm heading downtown on Frederiksborggade for some mid-afternoon shopping, what do I hear in the distance but loud music, shouting, and cheering? Of course I have to investigate. I finally get to the source of the noise around Nørreport station; heading South onto Nørre Voldgade, I catch the tail end of a rather impressive mass of people holding flags and banners, shouting slogans, etc. One sub-group is sporting full blown hammer-and-sickle flags; "69" is another common theme. I never caught up to the head of the march, shown in the video above, but I thoroughly enjoyed the musical selections blaring out of the most god-awful junkyard of a sound-truck I've ever seen. The high point for me was hearing and recognizing instantly the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia".

As a newcomer, of course, I had no clue what it was about, although I'd been told when I arrived about the riots that took place a year ago in Nørrebro around the demolition of the Ungdomshuset, or "Youth House". I soon learned that "69", a common theme of graffiti around my neighborhood, refers to Jagtvej 69, the address of Ungdomshuset (this happens to be just diagonally across Assistens Kirkegård from where I'm living). Now my lab-mates all agreed Nørrebro is a great place to live, but... "if there's going to be some political march or demonstration" my friend H warned, "that's where it's going to start...and if you hear shouts and sirens on Nørrebrogade, you'll want to walk the other way." Given my general curiosity, I'm not sure I would always follow this advice, although it doesn't hurt to pay close attention to the situation. As it happens, there was some rioting in mid-February, following the re-publication of one of the cartoons the fundamentalist Muslims don't like, but I was back in NH at the time trying to finish packing up, and missed the whole thing. Judging from the general direction, yesterday's march doubtless started in Nørrebro, but I got to it late. At first I didn't connect it with what I'd heard before, until I found out that the demolition of Ungdomshuset, and the subsequent riots, began on 01 March 2007. It's an issue that hasn't gone away, and the march was clearly an anniversary demonstration. What I saw was loud but more or less peaceful, especially since the police appeared to be under control.

So what's my point about "real" city life? Let's just say that I consider well-considered political protest a healthy sign of civil life, something one apparently finds more commonly in larger cities than in small college towns like the one's I've been inhabiting the past dozen years or so. I have to say I missed this sort of thing. I wouldn't want to say there's no political awareness in Durham, NH, or Athens, GA, but the last time I remember UNH students getting really out of control, it was following the loss to Minnesota in the final game of the 2003 NCAA Men's Division 1 Hockey Championship. At the time I thought, fuck, that's UNH for you; I'd like to see our students get this worked up about a real issue...!

Let me be clear. I don't support rioting, burning cars, smashing windows, and so forth, although I understand these things under certain circumstances (cartoons are not on my list). IMHO a massive, organized, loud and defiant, but otherwise peaceful demonstration accomplishes a lot more than a streetful of burning cars and broken glass (I saw my share of both back in the day). In any case, I can relate to outrage, but I have to admit that if the bricks start coming through my living room window, I'll be ready to move to the suburbs.


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