In Copenhagen, the inhabitants of a “ghetto” are resisting

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By John

With its bike shops, organic cafes and narrow streets lined with brick facades, the former working-class neighborhood of Norrebro in northern Copenhagen is fast becoming one of the trendiest in the Danish capital. It is there, however, very close to the station, that Mjolnerparken is located: a set of four blocks of four-storey buildings, designated as a “ghetto” and therefore doomed to dismantling.

Two years ago, the non-profit company Bo-Vita, owner of the 560 low-rent housing units where around 1,600 people lived, launched a major renovation program there. When the work is completed within a year or two, less than half of the tenants will find their apartment. The two central blocks will be bought by a private company and their inhabitants will be relocated elsewhere.

But, as evidenced by the banners hanging from the balconies, proclaiming that “Mjolnerparken is not for sale”, the residents do not intend to let it go. In May 2020, twelve of them sued the Danish state. Supported by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, they accuse him of discrimination based on ethnic origin. The case has since been brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, by a Danish court.

A 49-year-old teacher, Majken Felle is one of the complainants. She moved to Mjolnerparken in 2014. Back then, the place often made headlines. Neighborhood kids were involved in the gang war that was raging in Copenhagen at the time. In February 2015, one of them, Omar El-Hussein, radicalized in prison, committed a double attack, which killed two people, in a cultural center and in front of a synagogue in the capital, before being killed. -even by the police.

Majken Felle assures, however, that she always felt safe in Mjolnerparken. This tall blonde woman describes a neighborhood where life is good: “People know each other. We say hello, the children play outside and the women drink tea or coffee in the yard. It was my secret garden. » But on May 15, 2019, she received a letter from Bo-Vita, telling her that she was going to have to be relocated, because her apartment is in one of the two blocks that will be sold.

Ethnic criterion

In question: the Ghetto plan, adopted in November 2018 by Parliament on the initiative of the liberal government, supported by the far right. It establishes a series of special rules for neighborhoods called “ghettos”. In addition to doubling the convictions for crimes and misdemeanors committed there and forcing families to enroll their children in crèches from the age of 1, the deputies have decided to limit the number of apartments there to 40%. low-rent family homes by 2030.