Residents Tear Down Infamous Hashish Market in Copenhagen

September 3, 2016 Updated: September 3, 2016

COPENHAGEN, Denmark—Residents of Copenhagen’s semi-autonomous Christiania neighborhood on Friday tore down the area’s hashish market after an alleged drug dealer shot two police officers and a bystander.

The 25-year-old gunman escaped after the attack but was arrested after a shoot-out with police. Authorities and his defense lawyer said Friday that he had died from his wounds.

The violence marked an escalation in clashes between police and drug dealers who sell hashish openly in Christiania, a largely self-governing enclave created when hippies occupied abandoned navy barracks in 1971. Sale of hashish is illegal in Denmark.

Fed up with the violence, some of Christiania’s 600 residents on Friday morning tore down the market stalls used by drug dealers on the neighborhood’s infamous “Pusher Street.” Denmark’s TV2 showed people using saws, cordless drills and crowbars to dismantle the stalls. Others cheered as heavy machinery knocked down plywood stalls and tore down stone walls, leaving piles of rubble of what once were hashish dealers’ booths.

“It is important that we do this today with the wounded police officer in our thoughts,” community spokesman Risenga Manghezi told The Associated Press. “But we cannot guarantee that they won’t pop up again, unfortunately.”

Copenhagen’s police chief Thorkild Fogde welcomed the dismantling of “the hashish supermarket,” adding it was “a clear attempt to help the police.” He acknowledged he could not exclude hashish sale would move to other parts of the city.

Danish lawmakers, who for years have called for the open hashish sale to stop, rushed to applaud the residents’ action. Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen tweeted “Great Christiania. Hold on tight.”

Residents of Christiania used a digger to remove the illegal hashish stalls in Pusher Street, Copenhagen, on Friday, Sept 2, 2016. (Thomas Borberg/AP via POLFOTO)
Residents of Christiania used a digger to remove the illegal hashish stalls in Pusher Street, Copenhagen, on Friday, Sept 2, 2016. (Thomas Borberg/AP via POLFOTO)

Though many Christiania residents have liberal attitudes toward drugs, they are uncomfortable with the presence of criminal gangs running the hashish trade in the neighborhood.

“What we, the residents, don’t want is to be associated with the violence connected to the hashish sale,” Manghezi said. “As for now we have no concrete plans as to what will happen with Pusher Street.”

Authorities say the gunman, identified as Mesa Hodzic, a Danish national born in Bosnia, opened fire on two police officers as they tried to arrest him late Wednesday. The gunman also shot a bystander in the leg.

One of the officers is in critical condition while the other and the bystander are stable, police said.

Police later shot Hodzic as they confronted him south of Copenhagen. He was taken to Copenhagen’s university hospital, where he died from his wounds early Friday, his defense lawyer Jacob Kiil said. Manghezi said Hodzic was not a Christiania resident.

Since Pusher Street was created in the late 1980s, police have raided the hashish sale dozens of time and have torn down stalls several times with little luck. In 2004, residents and hashish dealers together dismantled stalls. Shortly after, stalls and booths mushroomed again.