Category Archives: Denmark

Police Tactics in Denmark COP 15

Police Tactics in Denmark COP 15

A very informal text about police tactics in Denmark, made by a few 
people in the Climate Collective. 

The following pages are analyses and guesses based on past experiences. 
Use this material for what it is. Use common sense, bravery and the 
power to create history to decide the rest. 

*Border controls* 

It’s likely that police will have some form of border control, and they 
have ensured legitimacy and backing from the politicians. 

They are allowed to cancel the freedom of movement and suspend Schengen 
for a certain duration in order to prevent certain people from entering 
the country. It’s the Danish police that ultimately decides who they 
want to reject. Lists of activists and activists with criminal records 
(with these infos gathered with cooperation with foreign countries’ 
police forces) are a possible way of selecting who comes in and who doesn’t. 

Danish police haven’t extensively used border control in the recent 
years, preferring, for instance during the Ungdomshuset riots, to deport 
all foreign activists that got in custody. Denmark has a very strict 
foreign law allowing extended imprisonment, detention and deportation of 
foreigners whom the police assume are in the country only to commit 
crimes. This said, in many recent occasions, foreigners were kept in 
custody and set free without being deported, after a few hours (examples 
are Shut it Down or the Not your business initiative in May this year). 

People’s luggage might be searched, and items that show the reason for 
entering the country could be used as a reason to forbid entrance (i.e. 
gas masks, etc). 

At the moment, it is not clear whether some borders will be easier to 
cross than some others. You might want to get in contact with the legal 
team on the borders right before coming to Denmark, and ask for 
suggestions. Also, it could be advisable to enter the country well in 
advance, since the intensity of border controls is likely to rise until 
the 12^th and probably again right before the 16^th . 

European police in general have become accustomed to border control 
during such events, as seen at the G8 in Heiligendamm and at the NATO 
Summit in Strasbourg. 

Legal teams are being set up to help people with border issues, both 
coordinating from Copenhagen, and providing help along the borders 

*Random encounters and searches* 

The police in Denmark have the right to stop and search anyone they want 
without further justification if it happens in an area that the police 
chief have designated as a ‘Visitation Zone’. Most of Copenhagen have 
been a visitation zone for the past 14 months due to gang related 
trouble and it will probably be the same during COP15, as these zones 
tend to pop up wherever the police wants them. 

In Denmark it’s illegal to lie or refrain from identifying yourself. 
This means you have to tell them your name, current address and date of 
birth. Foreigners also have to carry identity papers with them at all 
times. Like in all other countries and all other encounters with the 
police it’s never a good idea to tell them anything else. They’d 
naturally want to ask you what you’re doing and try to get a feel about 
you. It never helps you or your comrades to talk to the police and 
stating that you know your right to keep silent can make them stop asking. 

It’s illegal to carry knives of any kind, belts looking like ammunition 
belts, any weapons (including pepper spray or other things), or anything 
that can be used to cover your face. The mask law isn’t generally used 
for anything except when caught in the act of covering your face or with 
items that cannot be used otherwise. It is generally accepted to wear 
scarves around your neck in the winter as long as it doesn’t cover your 

It’s legal to wear home-made protection items and we have in fact seen a 
lot of times that people have had leg-pads and arm braces returned to 
them after arrests in confrontations with the police. However the police 
again have the power to assume that you’re up to no-good if your wearing 
items of personal protection. It’s considered a dead give-away that 
you’re planning trouble. Also if caught with it and later charged with 
other crimes it certainly won’t help your case. 

*Preventive and mass arrests* 

The police have the right to preventively arrest people whom they assume 
are about to participate in riots or other illegal activities. They can 
then be held in for up to 6 hours for Danish citizens or 12 hours for 
foreigners. The way this have been used by the police so far is to 
search larger groups for weapons before antifascist protests, but also, 
for instance in 2002, to arrest specific people with key 
responsibilities in the mobilization. 

When larger crowds of activists are trying to do mass actions or when 
someone in protests are doing illegal things the police like to mass 
arrest the entire crowd. This unpleasant experience is most easily 
avoided by not allowing yourself to be surrounded by the police. It 
takes a while for the police to get themselves into a position to mass 
arrest so making sure they are not closing in from all sides once in a 
while and protecting the weak point goes a long way to prevent a mass 
arrest. Mass arrests rarely leads to anything except being driven to a 
police station and having your identity confirmed while being locked in 
a cell for some hours and being let go again later. This has especially 
become popular after the preventive arrests have been written into the 
Danish law and police don’t have to prove anything anymore. In arrests 
of groups of people there doesn’t seem to be a difference concerning 
foreigners and Danish citizens. They are usually all get out at the same 

*Arrests(the real ones)* 

If the police actually have a suspicion to arrest you for they can do 
so. As arrested you still don’t have to tell them anything except your 
name, date of birth and your current address. This time it’s VERY 
important that you don’t tell them anything else. If you’re wrongly 
arrested you have the right to get quite a bit of money. This means that 
the police will try very hard to make sure they didn’t arrest you 
without a reason. Everything you say literally can and will be used 
against you or your friends so don’t say anything. A very nice video is 
exploring this topic in full here: 

Danish citizens can be kept for 24 hours and foreigners for 72 hours 
after which you must be put in front of a judge or set free. 

If the charge is serious enough or the police have reason to believe 
that you’ll leave the country to avoid punishment the police can demand 
that you are to be detained. You’ll have to have your detention tested 
by a judge before you’re put in jail. There you’ll have the right to a 
lawyer and may see what the police have against you for the first time 
and you would enter a different part of the system. Legal teams are 
there to provide you financial, legal, political and emotional support. 
So don’t panic. 

The only time in recent years foreigners have been held in detention for 
more than a few days is during the Ungdomshuset riots and even then, 
most of them just got deported to their home countries. Even a fair bit 
of those with serious charges. It seems the Danish police likes 
deporting their prisoners far more than dealing with the legal hassle of 
jailing and convicting them. This also makes sense in the light that 
prisoners cost to the state and to police a lot of money. 


Confrontations where the police uses force against activists have become 
quite common in recent years. This means that the police will be quite 
used to using physical force and weapons against people who in many 
cases are passive and non-violent. This august they violently evicted a 
church with Iraqi refugees using loads of baton beatings against people 
peacefully blocking the road by sitting on the ground. Even though the 
images went around the country the police had backing from the 
right-wing politicians in power. The Danish police knows they can use 
painful and possibly injuring methods to get their job done no-matter 
how non-violent the resistance is. This means they wont be as hesitant 
as i.e. the British police in that respect. 

The Danish activist scene is quite large compared to neighbouring 
countries and population sizes. This is likely to be because of the 
Ungdomshuset movement and the general loss of belief in the system where 
failed policies of a repressive system being forced through all around. 
Many of the Danish activists have experienced police brutality and legal 
repression. This gives the advantage that many Danish activists have 
experienced troubled demonstrations and have some sort of experience on 
police methods and tactics. An exception is made by water-cannons that 
the police have bought for the summit and that have never been used in 
Denmark before. 

In the recent months, police tactics seem to have changed. From the 
Ungdomshuset riots up to May this year, Danish police was becoming 
famous for massive use of tear gas and for big mass arrests (as an 
example, 500 people arrested in one single afternoon during G13, an 
action for a new Ungdomshuset in 2007). Both tear gas and arrests often 
involved peaceful parts of actions and demonstrations, and police 
violence was somewhat limited, if compared to other countries. In the 
most recent actions (Not your business and Shut it down), police did not 
shoot one single round of tear gas, preferring violent beatings over 
crowd dispersion, and did arrest groups of people only on a limited amount. 

*Police Weapons:* 

Here is a quick rundown of the different weapons used by the police in 

*Batons* are used when the police wants to chase people off, pacify them 
or just hurt them into compliance. In Denmark the batons are short and 
heavy and serves as a plastic coated led stick. You don’t want to get 
hit in the head or any unprotected spot by a Danish police baton as it 
will may well hurt you enough to end your participation in the day’s 
action or protest. Danish police in their riot gear have highly 
protective uniforms, but do not wear shields. 

The police are very fond on their *armoured cars *that they like to 
drive high speed into unruly crowds. The strategy is usually to drive 
the cars into the rioting crowd and then have the officers jump out of 
the back and arrest the ‘leaders’ and then leave again or expand to 
reclaim control of the entire area. This way stones or projectiles are 
thrown at the cars while the officers remain protected until they can 
run out into a scattering crowd who just happen to be out of 
projectiles. However this strategy failed quite miserably during the 
Ungdomshuset riots when the activists often proved to be too fast and 
spread to make any useful arrests. This made them just drive repeatedly 
back and forward in order to frighten people off the streets. 

At the civil disobedience mass actions the cars are used mostly as 
mobile barricades the police use when they want to stop the protesters 
from going any further. 

New *cameras* in some of their armoured cars. A note on video evidence 
is that it’s rarely the tipping point of any court trial. Videos are 
often shaky and inconclusive and at big protest identification of 
individuals in masses of people committing civil disobedience it’s very 
rarely even used in court cases. An officers statement is about the 
heaviest and most conclusive evidence you can get in Danish courts. 
Therefore they don’t really need the video evidence if they want to 
argue that you’re guilty of a crime. This also have the positive side 
effect (from the police’s perspective) that officers can’t be convicted 
of police brutality when caught on tape. 

Failure to arrest people during the Ungdomshuset riots made the police 
use *tear gas* to disperse crowds or punish them collectively for unruly 
behaviour. In recent months, this hasn’t been used as much. 

Tear gas is a white fog that are usually deployed from scatter grenades 
propelled through their special grenade launcher rifles. The scattering 
of the grenades makes them very difficult to be thrown or kicked back. 
The best way to deal with the gas is to avoid the area or to bend down, 
close the eyes and wait for the wind to clear it off the air. It’s 
usually possible to predict how the gas will disperse in an area 
depending on how the wind blows and the arch of the grenades in the air. 

When exposed to tear gas water will clear it off so flush your eyes or 
mouth. Remember that while it is uncomfortable it’s mostly harmless and 
you’ll be able to function normally again a short while after exposure. 
Lemons and some chemical-water solutions lessen the effects of the gas. 
Do not wear contact lenses or facial creams, as these will amplify the 
effects of the gas. 

Fear is half the effect of the gas. Sometimes crowds try to outrun gas 
downwind making them stay in the cloud much longer than had they just 
stayed put. Don’t panic seems to be the best advice on gas. 

A relatively new but cherished crowd tool is the *pepper spray* which 
the police use in close encounters with both passive and active 
protesters. Getting pepper spray on your skin or in the eyes is far 
worse than the gas. If exposed to pepper spray it’s often a good idea to 
leave to a more safe location. Especially if it’s been sprayed in your 
face the liquid may enter your eyes making them cramp shut and hurt a 
lot. Needless to say you don’t want that happening while on the front 
line. Therefore it’s better to retreat if in doubt on how big a dose 
you’ve received. 

Wearing clothes, turning the face away and shutting the eyes have saved 
a lot of activists from the effects of pepper spray. It has to come in 
contact with skin or eyes to hurt. If this happens immediately flush 
with water and you’ll be fine in a while. It takes longer to recover 
than in the case with tear gas unfortunately. 

*The riot act (or “hoodloom package”)* 

The Danish politicians have just approved a new public order act that’ll 
give the police vastly more power and harshen the sentences and fines 
for civil disobedience as much as tenfold. Their primary excuse is the 
upcoming COP15 summit. It’s being vastly criticised by the opposition, 
experts, labour unions and social movements. 

*Last words* 

This is what the police might do during actions and confrontations at 
the COP15 protest events in Copenhagen. Like I said this mostly relies 
on guesswork and predictions. These are historic times we live in. The 
current world order of endless economic growth and consumption of 
natural resources are coming to an end one way or another. It’s our job 
to shatter the global structures prioritizing economic gain over the 
lives of humans and biospheres. They give their lackeys more power 
because they know they are fighting a losing battle. The battle for the 
future begins in Copenhagen. The stakes are too high for the world for 
us to loose this battle. The time is now. Come make history in Copenhagen.