In the Realm of the Danish Punitive “Ghetto” Policy

Published

Article published in The Funambulist 20 (November-December 2018) Settler Colonialism in Turtle Island. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

On March 1st, 2018, the Danish social housing area Mjølnerparken in Copenhagen provided the setting for a press conference and a new political initiative proposing, amongst other things, a new punitive policy, in which crimes committed in specially appointed areas will be double punishable. The initiative has since been met with heavy criticism and has been called out for contradicting legal regulations and fundamental democratic values. Accompanied by no less than seven ministers, the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen unveiled the details of a new strategy to “rid Denmark of” what the government has officially designated as “ghettos.”

As the ministers unrolled their plan entitled “A Denmark without Parallel Societies: No Ghettos in 2030,” a peaceful demonstration conducted by the residents of Mjølnerparken took place. Carrying signs proclaiming, “Where Else Should We Live, Lars?” and “The Parallel Society is Christiansborg [the Danish Parliament], Not the Mjølnerpark” the demonstrators sought out to voice their frustrations with the changes that may soon occur.

A question that has since been put forward by opposing movements and critics of the plan, that, however, remains unanswered is, in the existing and future framework of strong levels of social control, who are then the ones producing this parallel society?

“A Denmark Without Parallel Society” in Brief ///

The notion of ghettos has for several years been part of the common Danish political terminology. In 2010, the previous right-wing government introduced a yearly revised “ghetto-list” for the first time in history as a means to categorize a selection of social housing areas across the country. The common denominator for these residential areas is based on demographics and socio-economic conditions such as ethnicity, age, average income, and level of education. In this definition, the main measurement tools have been inextricably linked to the criminal backgrounds of residents, adding criminal records as part of the equation that constitutes the social dynamics of these areas.