Last week, riots raged in several Danish cities. Firemen were dispatched to put out a large number of fires. Just during the night of February 14-15, thirty cars were set ablaze around the country, mostly in Copenhagen and Aarhus.
The people taking part in the riots of last week were mostly youth from segregated areas in the major cities. Immigrants and youth have been the target of the government’s racist policies for quite some time. As the situation reached a critical point last week, a rebellion similar to the one of the French suburban youth in the autumn of 2005 followed.
Just like in France, police provocations were the initial spark for the riots. Already with a long history of harrassing suburban youth, the Danish police were given additional powers. Eager to combat everything from drug addiction to youth violence with more repression, the Danish government granted police the right to introduce so called ”visitation zones” in socially deprived ares. Cops were allowed to arbitrary search people, including pulling their pants down, without having to account for their actions or presenting any proof for a suspected crime.
Just as activist group ”Unorganised Antifascists” wrote on Danish activist website Motkraft, this meant cops were allowed to ”put their boots in people’s faces in the visitation zones for months.”
One of the affected was a Palestinian man in Nørrebro, in central Copenhagen, who was humiliated by the police on February 8th. This is one of the events mentioned as the last straw.
Violence used in the riots has been aimed at different targets. Communists cannot support police repression, and hence, we defend the right of all youth to resist the armed forces of the state as they invade the suburbs and attack young people.
Pure vandalism is, needless to say, a poorly chosen way to change a political climate of racism, repression and anti-youth policies. Moreover, the burning down of over ten schools hits Danish workers and youth themselves directly. Not to critisise this would mean surrendering to the anti-social attitudes thriving among young people in segregated working class suburbs. At the same time, we must add that these attitudes are a product of capitalism. Unemployment, a racist police force, and discrimination in the educational system all reinforce a feeling of being left out, and play a part in shaping the methods of the suburban uprisings.
Looking at media reports and debates following the riots, it’s not too hard to find the real culprits: the very same politicians and police representatives from the bourgeois establishment that are currently washing their hands from all responsibility. In a steady stream of reactionary statements, right-wing loudmouths and their apologetics (such as the Imams of the Muslim society, but also many of the liberal and left-wing critics of the government) have cried out to condemn the youth, and – as usual – described them as ”uncouth”, ”irresponsible”, ”indifferent” and ”raving lunatics”. Blame is laid on the rioters’ families.
Trying harder than anyone else to depict the suburban youth as a group of non-Danish subhumans and aliens invading Denmark from outer space, the racist populists of the Danish People’s Party also took the opportunity to call for even more repression. Representatives of the party put several proposals to parliament demanding the police to be equipped with water canons laced with tear gas.
Their hypocrisy is sickening. The reaction of politicians and the establishment is like someone beating his children during their upbringing denying all responsibility when the child acts ”irresponsibly” and revolts.
Striking down on the revolters’ attempt to make their voice heard, the establishment’s answer is more violence rather than self-criticism.
As clear-sighted commentators point out, the riots are not a problem one can reduce to just antisocial criminality. They are clearly an expression of a political issue. Youth taking part in rioting against police and fire departments in the areas of Nørrebro and other Danish cities do so because they feel deeply let down by the official Danish society. The political climate has indeed been severly aggravated by the rise of the Danish right and the Danish Peoples’ Party over the last couple of years. The war against terror, and Denmark’s support of US policies, spearheading Islamophobic reaction, has also done its share to a climate of racism. One example of this, causing an even more intense suburban rebellion, was when seventeen Danish newspapers yet again published the racist Muhammad caricatures.
As the right-wing regime continues to pursue its neoliberal policies, the only force capable of a serious fightback are the organisations of the Danish workers’ movement. Acting collectively, only the working class movement can aid the youth and transform the rebellion into a wider campaign not only against the racist police force, but also against the right-wing government, and the capitalist order they defend.
Revolutionaries can’t waste any time here. Progressive and working class organisations needs to strive after the widest unity in order to support the youth rebellion. This can be done by collectively intervening in the affected areas. One step in the right direction was when around 300 antifascists organised a demonstration through the streets of Nørrebro. The positive reactions from the inhabitants of the area indicates the potential of these kind of actions. The same thing needs to be repeated, and on a larger scale. Mass meetings, where the affected communities can discuss the situation and a political answer to the tasks put by the youth rebellion must be initiated.
What’s needed is a democratic grassroot movement of the suburbs. Here and now, in order to stand up against police repression, and possibly to stop misdirected methods of protest. Today and tomorrow, in order to create a movement integrating the very same areas in the class struggle, and to challenge the right-wing government and their racist politicians.
REVOLUTION Stockholm, Sweden
February 15, 2008