Denmark riots debate

Danish national police reports 21 big fires and 570 smaller ones over the weekend, many lit by young New Danes. 133 people were held during the week long riots and 34 jailed.

Monday evening there were 16 (or 27) smaller fires reported across the country. Copenhagen's western suburbs were the hardest hit, with 5 fires. According to the police this is due to three reasons: the winter vacation is over, the police are out on the streets and the dialog with the youth.

The debate about the reason for the riots is still ongoing, as well as how to prevent future such occurrences. I bring here just a few of the opinions expressed in the past few days.

A letter from a group calling itself "The Boys from Inner Nørrebro" wrote a letter to Politiken newspaper, explaining their side of the story.

In a letter sent to the police and media, young people from the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, revealed the real reasons for the week-long rioting that had spread to the rest of the country.

They also announced an end to the disturbances after a six-hour meeting Sunday night initiated by social workers from the area.

The letter which was titled, 'the truth behind the disturbances', is their own version of why events had gotten so out of hand.

'At the end of the day, the disturbances are about the way we are met by the police which we find brutal, racist and an unacceptable violation of our rights,' the youths said in their letter.

They continued to describe the way the searches were conducted which involved being stripped of their clothes and having their private parts exposed in public.

The letter stated that 'this kind of treatment was daily fare for them'.

The youths also confirmed that the ill treatment of an elderly man from their neighbourhood by police was the last straw that had triggered the disturbances.

In the letter, they explained that the man had been pushed to the ground by police officers and beaten with their truncheons.

'This goes way beyond our boundaries and we will never accept this kind of treatment. One thing is experiencing it ourselves, but another thing is when our parents are subjected to it,' the letter stated.

The letter ended with a statement announcing that the rioting would stop in the hopes of more respect from the police and media in the future.

In an interview to Politiken a spokesperson for the Nørrebro youth admitted that things had gotten out of hand, but said that this was a local issue. They did not set fire to schools and institutions since these are places where their brothers and sisters go to, and they did not set fire to residences. All of that was done either by youth who didn't live in the neighborhood or elsewhere around the country. There have been 64 fires in Nørrebro this past week, but none during or since the meeting.

Eva Smith of the Crime Prevention Council says the riots should get the Danes to treat New Danes equally. She says the underlying cause for the riots is intolerance and different treatment for Danes of immigrant background.

After a meeting with the city leadership, Lord Mayro Ritt Bjerregaard says that the money for youth activities exists, but there's no oversight about where it's going. She called in a task-force which over the next few months clear up the picture of the existing offers for youth in the city.

Iranian born Mehdi Mozaffari, professor of Islamism at Aarhus University, says that social poverty and marginalizing are not the reason for the anger, but rather a religious hate for democracy. He says that it's important to realize that they burned down the democratic schools, but not the koran schools. It's not an attack against the schools, but an attack against the system, that teaches them about democracy.

He says the youth learn about the war against democracy from the net and from Arab TV station, which bring them to see Denmark as a battle-field. Physically they're in Gellerup or Vollsmose [Danish ghetto towns], but mentally they're in Afghanistan.

Sardar Sharif, Iraqi born Kurd and initiators of a youth association for democratic Kurds in Copenhagen says the solution is not apologies or accommodating, but to show the consequences. He says it's not society's fault and that Denmark is not racist. On the contrary, more and more immigrants are getting to the job market. The responsibility should be places on the youths' parents.

Pia Allerslev, responsible for culture and leisure in the municipality, thinks that the bill for the burned down schools should be sent to the rioters and their families and turn to civil lawsuits if necessary, like the city had done in the 1990s against graffiti.

Several residence companies have already decided to kick out rioters and their families, while other are seriously weighing following suit. Henning Kirk Christiansen, manager of such a company in Odense, supports the hard line, but says that this in itself will not solve the problem of the rioters.

State prosecution will look into the case of police violence said to have started the riots in Nørrebro. The old man attacked by the police, an elderly Palestinian known in the neighborhood, had not lodged a complaint, but will now be contacted by the state prosecution.

Sources: Politiken 1, 2, 3, 4; DR 1, 2, 3; Berlingske, Nyhedsavisen (Danish), Copenhagen Post (English)

No comments: