Danish hippy enclave Christiania wants drugs street shut after deadly shooting

Freetown Christiania celebrates its 50th anniversary with a parade, in Copenhagen

By Johannes Birkebaek

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Residents in the Freetown Christiania hippy enclave in Denmark's capital Copenhagen say they want to shut down cannabis sales on its main street following a deadly shooting on Saturday.

Christiana, a former army barracks that was claimed by hippies during the 1970s, has openly sold cannabis on its main street, known as Pusher Street, for more than 50 years.

The illegal drug trade has been tolerated by authorities, even as an increase in gang-related activities in the area has resulted in multiple shootings in recent years.

Police remove the cannabis booths from time to time only to see them rebuilt shortly after.

"As long as there is a massive illegal cannabis trade, there will be a violent and deadly struggle for the market," residents said in a joint statement posted on Christiania's website on Sunday.

A 30-year-old man was shot and killed on Saturday when two masked gunmen opened fire on Pusher Street. Four other people were wounded. The shooting was related to the illegal cannabis trade, police said.

An 18-year-old was arrested on Saturday and is being held custody. Police are still looking for other perpetrators.

The mayor of Copenhagen, Sophie Haestorp Andersen, on Sunday told the newspaper Berlingske that she also wants Pusher Street closed permanently.

Three weeks ago, Christiania residents tried to block the entrance in an effort to stop the illegal activity on Pusher Street, but the blockade only lasted a couple of hours.

Residents of the enclave live autonomously with self-declared rules, although they are not recognised as their own town by Copenhagen authorities. It is a major tourist attraction, with more than half million visitors a year.

(Reporting by Johannes Birkebaek; Editing by Angus MacSwan)