Christiania is an anti-authoritarian neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark, established in 1971 as a squat at an abandoned army base. It has about 900 inhabitants and 85 acres.
In 2012, after the residents had squatted in Christiania for four decades, Denmark sold the residents the land for $13 million. Ole Lykke, a resident and historian commented to Vanity Fair, "We now pay double for half the freedom, considering the interest cost and increased rent. We have moved into a capitalist structure. Money talks now. It’s possible for the state to keep turning the wheel on the rent and the banks to keep making the interest higher. It will be harder and harder for older people, disabled people, to keep a home here."
Residents make decisions by consensus at community meetings held in a central building called the Ting House. A resident explains the community's way of resolving conflicts:
If a problem comes up, it is first discussed in the house where it originates, where it hopefully will be resolved. Only if the issue is still not taken care of will a neighborhood meeting be called to discuss it. This way, the house and then the neighborhood must fail to deal with the problem before it becomes necessary to have a community meeting, and by then, most people have already heard about the matter and considered the various options. We never vote at community meetings nor do we have a council, because then some people make decisions for others. We only have community meetings when we need to-sometimes not for years, other times once a week.
Christiania does not have private property. Filmmaker Richard Jackman explains, "Even if you build your own house or renovate an apartment, you cannot sell it when you move out, and the local area meeting decides who will move into a vacant home." Most businesses are worker-owned cooperatives. Examples of workplaces include a cabinetry workshop, a bicycle workshop, "restaurants, cafés, a kindergarten, a clinic, a health food shop, a book shop, an anarchist space, and a concert venue".
In Anarchy Works, Peter Gelderloos describes the community's mechanisms for keeping the neighborhood clean and implementing ecological technologies:
They have been taking out their own trash for over thirty years. The fact that they receive about one million visitors a year makes their achievement all the more impressive. The streets, buildings, restaurants, public toilets, and public showers are all reasonably clean — especially for hippies! The body of water that runs through Christiania is not the cleanest, but considering that Christiania is tree-covered and automobile free one suspects most of the pollution comes from the surrounding city that shares the waterway.
Residents have built dozens of the houses now standing in Christiania using innovative eco-designs. They also use:
solar power, wind power, composting and a whole host of other eco-friendly innovations. A method of filtering sewage through reed beds, which means water coming out of Christiania is as clean as that coming out from the rest of Copenhagen’s treatment plants, has helped the commune be shortlisted for a pan-Scandinavian award for ecological living.
Different people interviewed had different conceptions of how Christiania was kept clean, suggesting a sort of dual system. A newcomer said that you cleaned up after yourself, and when you felt like doing some extra picking up, you did. An old-time resident who was more involved in decision-making explained there was a garbage committee, answerable to the “Common Meeting,” responsible for the bottom-line of keeping Christiania clean, though clearly voluntary assistance and cleanliness by all the residents was the first line of defense.
Christiania is a police-free zone. Although soft drugs are common, the community has successfully banned hard drugs. Richard Jackman observes, "Small children run free, their parents relaxed as long as they stay within sight, and dogs run free as well."
Early in Christiania's history, a section decided to allow police in. They found the police continually ignoring hard drug users while arresting soft drug users. So, they kicked the police out. In 1984, a motocycle gang moved into Christiania and began selling hard drugs. This time, residents kicked the gang out, "using a combination of sabotage, public meetings, pressure, and direct confrontation."
- Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works
- Tom Freston, “You Are Now Leaving the European Union”, Vanity Fair, 12 September 2013, http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2013/09/christiana-forty-years-copenhagen.
- Georgy Katsiaficas, The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life, (Oakland: AK Press, 2006), 117-120.
- Joshua Philipp, "Christiania Pioneers Alternative Economy (Interview)", Tech ZWN, http://techzwn.com/2012/02/christiania-pioneers-alternative-economy-interview/. Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works.
- Cahal Milmo, “On the Barricades: Trouble in a Hippie Paradise,” The Independent, May 31, 2007.
- Gelderloos, Anarchy Works
- Philipp, ibid.
- Peter Gelderloos, "A World Without Police," Counterpunch, 29 December 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/29/a-world-without-police/.