This Danish Anarchist Community Believes Freedom Works

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Without government, who will build the roads? How will society prevent an influx of crime and pollution? Can civilization as we know it truly exist at all? Many people may think that an anarchist society has never really been tried, especially in the modern era. However, a Danish community, after it left the influence of the state, has truly thrived.

Freetown Christiania: An Anarchist Paradise

It may be easy to miss the small, oddly shaped territory. But sitting in the middle of Copenhagen, Freetown Christiania is not trying to hide from anyone. In fact, since its dawn in 1971, the Danish anarchist community has grown into the third largest tourist attraction in the nation’s capital. Or, to be more technical, surrounded by the nation’s capital.

The Freetown Christiania project began, as mentioned, in 1971, at an abandoned military base. Many of the initial squatters moved to the new settlement because of a lack of affordable housing in the city. In the coming years, the society grew in population, and now, is home to up to 1,000 people.

Law in Freetown Christiania is quite simple. As no governing body exists in the region, the rules that they set do not have binding power. However, seeing as they own the property, the community does have the right to remove those in egregious violation of their principles of peace and order. In fact, all of their community guidelines are printed on big signs which stand in public areas. Some of the rules refer to the principles of nonviolence, and others are simply community desires and values. The anarchist community, for example, prohibits all violence, as well as weapons, hard drugs, and cars.

Rules sign in Freetown Christiania
Rules in Freetown Christiania are simple and prohibit only a few actions, such as violence and selling fireworks.

The Green Light District

Throughout the settlement’s history, it has had a fairly large involvement in the drug market. Pusher Street, the main drag in Freetown Christiania, has a major part in Copenhagen’s marijuana industry. Though the anarchist community does not tolerate hard drugs, it is much more open to the use and sale of marijuana.

As a result, many vendors opened up on Pusher Street, also known as the Green Light District. Community members and tourists alike can buy and sell at their will in one of the freest markets in the world today. Altogether, the market has an estimated annual value of $96.2 million.

In Denmark, the use of drugs is not explicitly illegal. However, both possession and sales of any type of drug carry a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment for small amounts. For harder drugs and higher quantities, the sentence can be as long as 16 years.

Despite this, for much of Freetown Christiania’s history, Danish police have entirely ignored the area’s drug trade. Though recently, there have been a few altercations between the anarchist citizens and Danish authorities. Although in the worst incident, three people were shot, violence, even in the drug industry, seldom occurs.

Just What Kind of Anarchists are They?

Interestingly, Freetown Christiania does not follow the ideology of any particular anarchist sector. As stated above, there is a massive, multi-million dollar drug market, which represents a free market. All transactions in the market occur entirely voluntarily and without taxes of the threat of force. The people also created their own currency, and use it for various purchases around the district, including a variety of local and imported foods in cafes and restaurants.

On the contrary, the anarchist community takes a very critical stance on property ownership. Their official website, for instance, remarks that anyone has the right to use, but not own, the land. And after purchasing it from the Danish government in 2012, community leaders made sure that the collective, rather than any individual, owned the land. As a guiding principle, they do not believe in land ownership. Freetown Christiania also emphasizes the importance of the community, and most citizens work for the benefit of the community as a whole. Breaking from modern capitalist tradition, some may work as community launderers, cooks, or trash collectors as a favor for their continued residence.

Anarchist Community Unity

Thus, it seems that the anarchist community adopts ideas from many schools of thought. This suggests that anarchist unity, rather than division, leads to success. The residents, after all, some third generation, appear highly proud of their tight-knit community.

Without a doubt, community engagement and pride have led to the ongoing success. The peaceful group lives under the Freetown Christiania flag, a red banner with three yellow dots. Debate still exists over whether the dots represent the three “I’s” of Christiania or the O’s in the song “Love, Love, Love”. Despite this disagreement, the community continues to live on as one of the world’s longest-standing examples of peaceful society without a state.

Performers under the Freetown Christiania flag.
Singers perform under the Freetown Christiania flag.

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