Denmark: Fear of ethnic riots

Denmark: Fear of ethnic riots

With forty shootings and three dead, the gang-war in Copenhagen is causing concerns that it would escalate into ethnic riots.

MS-NBC published a report on the gang wars.  Politiken reports on the government's anti-gang package, which includes deportation of criminal immigrants.  The shootings have meanwhile forced the closure of a library, culture center and sports hall on Blågårdsgade (Blågård street), and stopped deliveries by a meal-on-wheels company (see here and here)

In the past, btw, immigrant gang Black Cobras stopped riots, noting that it's bad for business.  Riots brought in the police, who conducted more thorough searches. 

Below I've summarized several articles on this subject.  Big h/t to Snaphanen, who provided me with articles.


Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende reports that Copenhagen is on its way to becoming an American city.  A survey of 1,016 residents conducts by Gallup shows that 60% of the residents say that there are places in the city where they wouldn't go.  48% of the women changed their behavior due to the gang-war.

Copenhagen police spokesperson Flemming Steen Munch says that people have nothing to fear and should just call the police is they see anything unusual.


Ekstra Bladet spoke with two immigrant gang members, who preferred to be called 'freelance gangsters'.  After being frisked and deprived of their cell-phones, the two journalists were driven to a 'safe place'.

Asked when the war would stop, one gang member answered that it won't stop, as the lines have been crossed long ago.  In the past there was a rule not to shoot women and children, but that's gone since the bikers now shoot children playing in the street.  For any one of 'theirs' that the bikers shoot, they'll shoot two.  It's sad for those who are injured by mistake, he admits, but if they go out to places where the bikers hang out - they put themselves in the line of fire.

Asked what the war was about, he answers that it's not about drugs or power like the media portrays.  They joined the fight because the AK-81s shot innocents and they don't want a mother crying over her lost son.

It's not a race-war, they say, it's only against the bikers.  And when asked what the police can do, the freelancer answers that they can do nothing and that soon they'll shoot the police too.  The police helps the bikers.  They know that from their own sources in the police.  It's clear that the state is on the biker's side and the new anti-gang regulations are directed at the immigrants.

They frisk people in Nørrebro only for the sake of their family's security.

What about dialog or peace talks?  The gang-member rejects the idea of sitting with the head of Hell's Angels and talking over a cup of tea.

In response the police denies that they favor the bikers, and say they come down just as hard on both sides.  The police union, meanwhile, wants bullet-proof vests.


Deputy police inspector Lars Nicolai Jensen of the Copenhagen Police fears that the gang wars could escalate into ethnic riots, if people start seeing the gang-wars as race-riots.

The gang war gives the appearance of a battle between ethnic Danes (Hell's Angels and AK 81) against the immigrants.  This could bring people to take sides, and to get caught up in the 'them vs. us' atmosphere.

Eline Feldman, of the Copenhagen TaskForce Integration said that both sides have sent out SMS messages to their followers warning that 'they're after all black-haired people' and 'they will kill all Whites'.

However, Lars Nicolai Jensen says that the gang-wars have not yet got to a point where there's anger against all White Danes or against all immigrants.


In Blågård School, in Nørrebro, the students feel they're being judged unfairly.  Berlingske Tidende spoke with several 9th graders, who said that just like not all Whites are bikers, not all immigrants are gang-members.  Their older brothers are stopped and searched by the police, their parents don't let go out after dark, and the regular citizens look at them carefully.

Many feel that society is blaming the immigrants for the shootings, even if they themselves oppose the conflict, as can be seen from the government's plan to deport criminal immigrants.  "It's just a piece of paper. It doesn't mean tha tone feels Danish. We were born and raised here, this is our home.  Both parties should be punished just as harshly," says one boy, and a girl adds that she feels her life is worth less, since she's not an ethnic Dane.  "It's more serious when it's Danes who are shot than when it's immigrants.  So I feel that we don't mean as much," says says.


Politiken reports that both bikers and immigrant gangs are seeing an influx of new members.  Police estimate each side has about 1,500 members, compared with only 140 last year.

Danish broadcaster DR spoke with Kim Kliver of the national police's national research center.  Kliver says that the shooting incidents increased recruitment, since it seems much more exciting.  It's not fun to go out in the street and be a Mr. Nobody.  But if you're part of a group, even if you're a foot soldier doing the dirty work, you feel you have an identity.

Journalist Claus Buhr says that people feel more secure being part of a gang.  Additionally, there's a lot of money in it, which brings more respect in some communities.


Politiken interviewed several people regarding their views of the gang-war and its effect on Danish society.

Jens-Martin Eriksen researched the Bosnia civil war for years, and now he sees the same mechanisms which caused the escalation there in place in the streets of Copenhagen.  The police and citizens are powerless, that criminal gangs in Nørrebro started frisking people on the streets.  Multi-trans, which brings food to pensioners, had to stop their deliveries because their drivers were threatened.

Jens-Martin Eriksen doesn't think that the situation will develop into a civil war, but says that the ethnic aspects of the conflict will politicize it.  Elsewhere the two groups would have been called militias, since they also crossed the lines and are killing civilians.  At the same time, the politicians, authorities and police don't know what to do.

He thinks the authorities will manage to calm the conflict down, but that there will still be areas which would 'belong' to one militia or another, since the police can't disarm them.  

This will spillover from the Muslim militias to the Muslims in Denmark.  the violent confrontations will create distrust, where people want to be on the safe side, they identify with one of the militias.  This could develop into a war between Muslims and non-Muslims. 

He thinks the suggestion to help the elderly out of Nørrebro is an example that they belong to the wrong group, they've been 'caught' in enemy territory.

Hanne-Vibeke Holst, who wrote about women and power and had gotten threats from both Muslim fundamentalist and right-wing groups, says that she's worried about the situation. The gang-war is an expression of an extreme, destructive patriarchal culture - where honor plays a role, with a violence spiral of revenge and counter-revenge, of protecting one's honor and not 'losing face'.  It's a problem in all of society, she says, but certainly also a problem in Muslim cultures.  But even normal Danes live in a culture where violence is the solution and is glamorized, as can be seen from Hollywood films and computer games.

The group of angry, aggressive, frustrated young men feel themselves excluded by Danish society.  Hanne-Vibeke Holst can understand, or attempt to understand, their frustration.  She says Danes should ask themselves how they really speak of and treat Muslim minorities.  She also says that everybody is more or less unconsciously racist.  It's more difficult for ethnic minorities to find an apprentice position, to go into discos and to find a job.  They're constantly put down and so they feel excluded by Danish society, which generates hate.

She says the current situation demolishes the idea that Danes live in a safe Lilliput.  she hopes this would be a short episode, otherwise everything they've believed in Denmark with a consensus culture, would be gone.  If the answer is tougher punishments and more prisons, then Denmark has lost.  They should devote more means to integration and social-educational work.  She thinks Denmark can handle this, but not by responding like Americans.
Director Omar Shargawi, born in Denmark to Danish-Palestinian parents, has lived in Nørrebro most of his life.  He's most disturbed that the gang wars are seen as a race-conflict.  Just calling them 'immigrant gangs' paints an image of a war between Danes and non-Danes.  But most gang members who are not ethnic Danes were born in Denmark and have Danish citizenship. There are also ethnic Danes in the gangs.

People should not focus on race, but on the fact that these are criminals who are committing crimes.  There are victims among ethnic Danes and among immigrants.

Omar Shargawi says that other countries also have problems, and tougher punishments have not brought about less crime.  He's afraid that the media's focus on ethnicity and the whole rhetoric about bikers and gangs in Nørrebro will cause an escalation.

He says that people should be treated equally and that the focus shouldn't be on 'immigrant crimes' since that would pour oil on the fire.

Sources: Berlingske 1, 2; Kristeligt Dagblad; DR (Danish), Politiken (English)

See also:
* Copenhagen: Hells Angels - Immigrants must clean up their act
* Denmark: Gangs ordered youth to stop riots

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