I celebrated New Years on Vesterbro, the part of Copenhagen I still consider my hood, even though I moved in 1993. Vesterbro has changed immensely since I moved. It’s now very trendy with lots of cafés and interesting little shops. To draw a parallel…What used to be a pharmacy, where you could overhear the drug-addicts order their syringes for safe shooting-up, now is home to a popular café, and the most “greasy” diner of the neigbourhood, has been replaced by a deli specialised in bio-dynamic bread.
With the newfound riches and general trendiness of Vesterbro, I thought that the traditional “New Years torching” of garbage cans was a thing of the past, but it seems that old traditions die hard. Even though it’s nowhere near the scale it had in the 80ies and early 90ies. Back then, the entire street of Istedgade was blocked by burning dumpsters, always at the corner with Saxogade, and the police usually showed up in force.
In 1993, which was the most recent time I visiteded to Vesterbro during the New Years celebration, the police even fired tear-gas and live warning shots, after they had been threatened by the mob. I’d say that the police at that time adopted a very undecided strategy, where they first showed up in riot-gear, when they felt they were in control, they pulled out, this only prompted new dumpster torching. Now the police showed up again, but this time they kept at a safe distance, until they finally left. I believe the mob was feeding on this “victory”, I even saw a guy flashing a piece, something that is totally unheard of in Copenhagen.
The defensive strategy of the police in 1993 should, of course, be seen in the light of the spring riots following the EU referendum in 1993. Since then I’d say that the general defensive strategy of the police has payed off, they show their presence, but they rarely show up in numbers wearing riot gear.
The small garbage can fire on the picture above was first put out by a police unit, and later by a fire-engine. It was a very controlled response by the police, that I have to applaud.
It looked like this small fire was the only one on Istedgade, and there was no trashing of shops or the like. No, I just noticed that the celebrations on Enghave Plads, were very quiet and that people seemed to be having a very good time indeed. So in the words of “Magtens Korridorer”: “Det er lettere end man sku’ tro at bo på Vesterbro”.