Copenhagen Under Siege

Posted on / by Alex Berger

It’s just after 2:30A.M and I’m freshly returned to my apartment.  As I write this quick update the majority of the Copenhagen Police department is mobilized with what looks like military backup.  An active shooter remains on the loose in the heart of Copenhagen.  Trains are bypassing Norreport station and all vehicles entering and exiting the area are being checked at Police checkpoints.  In addition to a level of mobilization you almost never see from the Danish Police, they are also armed with assault weapons and in heavy bulletproof gear. They are on high alert and have been targeted repeatedly by the gunman. Right now it looks like at least five officers have been injured by the gunman, one civilian is dead, with a fifth individual also likely dead or in severe condition after being shot in the head.

*The suspect was engaged in a gunfight with Police early Sunday morning and has now been shot and killed* – 11AM (2/15/15)

I spent my evening dancing Salsa and Bachata in the city center.  My evening ended around 1:20AM…shortly after the apparent second shooting by the gunman, which took place near Norreport station at a Synagogue (about a 5 minute walk from where I was).  As we approached Nyhavn my friend and I noticed that it was extremely quiet for a Saturday evening (and Valentines Day no less).  There were two officers standing guard with assault rifles clearly visible.  I assumed it was a show of force for tourists as a precaution after the shooting which had occurred earlier in the day.  It was only as we got closer that I realized they were likely standing guard over the French Embassy which sits kitty corner to Nyhavn.  We spoke to them briefly and they informed us that a second shooting had taken place and advised that we return home.  Abandoning our stroll along Nyhavn we turned towards the Metro. As we did an unmarked van pulled up. It was full of what looked like a strategic military response team.

The Metro itself was largely deserted and running normally other than skipping Norreport station which by then was under a complete Police lockdown and in the midst of an all-out manhunt.

By 2AM I took a brief detour down the street (Norrebrogade) to Dronning Louises Bridge – which serves as the gateway between the city center and the immigrant heavy Norrebro neighborhood where I live.  The bridge had two officers operating a checkpoint – again with assault rifles – they were spot checking buses, taxis, and the like.   You can see the footage I filmed here:

While events are still unfolding and it is impossible to know what further tragedies are in store for Copenhagen, my heart goes out to the individuals and officers directly impacted by today’s events.  Copenhagen is a profoundly safe city – and that’s part of its charm. Incidents like this are terrible scars and have the potential to steal that safety and the mentality that fosters it.  That’s something I find profoundly saddening.

While little is known about the gunman or his motivations – it looks very likely that he’ll be a Muslim immigrant from the Middle East or Danish born but raised to a family with those ties. The initial attack was on one of the Muhammad cartoonists (Lars Vilks) and at an event that also had the French Ambassador present.

After the initial attack this was my preliminary update to Facebook:
[blogoma_blockquote]For those who have heard about the shootings in Copenhagen – no worries at all, I’m fine and was unaffected. Had no clue it had happened until people stateside mentioned it.

Sad to hear three officers were injured and a bystander was killed by the gunfire.

It was just the latest incident in the on-going round of bullshit surrounding Islamic extremists and the related depictions of Mohamed. The sad thing is that the only group it actually helps is DF – Denmark’s racist equivalent of the Tea Party.

While DK has a large Muslim population, these events come from an extreme but active minority – many of whom were Danish born and raised. In taking in large numbers of refugees the Danes unfortunately picked up a chunk of fundamentalists. Their approach to live and let live also means that the radicalization of some of these immigrants has been relatively easy. This is particularly true in the case of very young first generation or second generation Danes. Not unlike the gang recruitment and disenfranchisement that is so prolific and common in parts of the US.

On a daily basis I interact with Muslim immigrants and refugees from all over the middle east. My barber is Iraqi, as is the chef at one of my favorite spots. Another dear friend is a Tunisian Muslim. Others are Turkish, Syrian, and Persian. Even one of my roommates is a non-Arab/non-Immigrant Muslim convert.

They are lovely people who constantly surprise with small acts of kindness. These assaults and attacks leave them equally frustrated and heart broken. Not only because of the vileness of the initial attacks, but also because of the backlash that it brings upon them merely by association through faith and/or ethnic background.[/blogoma_blockquote]
On my walk home this evening I paused to talk to a couple of friends. One is an Iraqi who re-located here during the first gulf war.  He expressed immediate concern over the people, sadness over the events, and worry over what it will bring. He also talked with me a bit about the fundamental difference in mentality when it comes to how Religion is handled and treated in many of the Middle Eastern cultures. A point that often gets overlooked. While I disagree thoroughly that Religion should be off limits, I do find his point about the fundamental clash of viewpoints as to how Religion should be handled an area that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough. It, perhaps more than anything, is the real festering wound behind these incidents.

From there I stepped into one of the Kebab shops I frequent. The three guys working there are all Muslim and from a mixture of countries. They hadn’t heard about the latest round of shootings. As I shared the news the look of concern and sadness in their eyes was haunting.  It was clear that not only are they disgusted by what has occurred, but they know that it will only make things worse for them and their families.  In their eyes I saw concern for what the response to this will bring. To the increased polarization, distrust, and acts of violence that will inevitably ensue as fundamentalists from the Danish Folk Party and similar such ideological organizations rile up their followers and seek “vengeance”.

I sincerely hope that after this Denmark doubles down on maintaining its identity in a similar fashion to what Norway did after their mass shooting.  This is a profoundly safe country and city – and it is only through extremism and these types of acts of violence that things will change.  Today’s attack cuts at the Danish psyche. It harms the Danish spirit. But, even worse, it fuels hatred and distrust and nurturers the radicalization on both sides – among disenfranchised Muslim youths and their radical Christian counterparts. We’ll see it used over the next several months to push through all sorts of anti-immigrant legislation.  Things that will be reminiscent of what we saw in the US after 9/11.  And, without a doubt, I and my fellow foreign students, sojourners, and expats will feel that backlash even if the brunt is not leveled directly at us.  We are foreigners here. Often, much more so than the Danish born Arab-Muslim’s that these parties like to target and treat as non-Danes.

Just yesterday DF proposed banning English language programs at Danish Universities. A ridiculous move that would destroy Denmark’s competitiveness and ability to attract the talent they desperately need. A move that, had it been implemented a few years ago, would have made my re-location to Denmark impossible. Now, with an event like this for them to latch onto and play up…I fear what horrific tomfoolery will come.

For years during the Bush administration and during the heyday of the Tea Party Europeans would ask me how the US could be so stupid.  How they could allow such nonsense en masse.  This is how and it saddens me deeply to see Europe making the same mistakes the US is only just now starting to recover from.

So, I’ll leave you with a final video. It’s a video from WWII and is an excerpt I pulled from an old US propaganda film.  The message, while set in the US, is as true today as it was then and applies every bit as much to tonight’s events and what will follow as it did when it was initially created.

I may be a stalwart Atheist with a strong dislike for Religion, but I treasure the friends I have in my life who are Muslim.  I encourage you all to take a few moments and to remind yourself that extremists – Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise – are the threat. Not followers of one specific faith, or members of one specific race or culture.  If you can’t make that distinction, then you are no different than they are.  You may not have a gun in your hand, but you’re working just as hard as they are to put it in someone else’s.

*Live updates are available in Danish here. Just use Google Translate/Chrome translate.

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

One Comment

  • Evo Terra
    February 15, 2015

    Well said, buddy. Shoving it out on my channels later today.


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