updated 3/16/2004 2:36:13 PM ET 2004-03-16T19:36:13

Police raided Copenhagen’s famed hippie enclave Tuesday, detaining 53 people in a major crackdown on the open sale of hashish.

The drugs are illegal in Denmark, although authorities have tolerated the sale of hashish in Christiania, a counterculture oasis of psychedelic-colored buildings, no government, no cars and no police. Residents banned the sale of harder drugs in 1980.

About 200 police officers moved into the 84-acre enclave at 5 a.m. local time, while also raiding homes in the city. The raid lasted 10 hours. Helmeted officers tore down a few small woodsheds and removed tables that were used to sell hashish, police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch told The Associated Press.

“The raid is not against Christiania, it’s against the hashish sale,” Munch said.

Of the 53 arrested, 44 will be charged with selling drugs and could face sentences of up to 10 years in jail, he added.

Ole Wagner Hansen, the head of drug squad, said police had seized some hashish but could not immediately say how much.

Peter Plett, a spokesman for enclave’s more than 900 residents, criticized the police actions.

Alternative enclave
“The whole thing is a big media stunt,” Plett said. “We have decided not to do anything unless they start tearing down our houses.”

Police said they would not destroy any dwellings.

Standing on ladders, officers dismantled store awnings along Christiania’s badly paved Pusher Street, where vendors were selling hashish. Other tore down woodsheds of alleged drug dealers and removed parked bicycles before a police truck pushed away large rocks that residents had put up as roadblocks to prevent cars from entering.

Residents and onlookers cheered as police officers left around 3 p.m.

Tuesday’s raid was part of a nine-month investigation into illegal drug sales at Christiania, Munch said. In recent months, police have carried out a dozen smaller raids.

The government said Friday that Christiania could remain an alternative lifestyle community as long as residents obey the law, pay rent and stop selling drugs.

“If this can help our case and Christiania can survive, then this is OK,” Peter Post, another spokesman for the residents, said of the raid.

The enclave took root in 1971 when dozens of hippies moved into the derelict 18th-century fort on state-owned land. In 1987, Christiania was recognized as a “social experiment” and residents were later given the right to use the land, but not own it. The government now wants to end that agreement.

In January, hashish dealers demolished their sales booths to avoid a crackdown they feared would lead to their eviction. Though the booths have disappeared, hashish was still being sold.

Since January 2003, 1,903 pounds of hashish, estimated to be worth $7.5 million, have been seized.

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