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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.