Organisation builds bridges between cultures in Nørrebro

An organisation called ‘Nørrebro for Unity’ is trying unite the different cultures the Copenhagen district, Nørrebro, contains. The organisation’s members are businesses like shops and bars like Nørre Bodega.

By Sonja Wurtscheid and Thomas Schønning

Foto by Thomas Schønning


Cigarette smoke floats firmly in the air, and is cut into thick white pillars as it passes the light from the windows. This wednesday afternoon, everyday-chatter is exchanged between 20 to 30 tongues in the brown and deep red room at Nørre Bodega.

Kristine Madsen is taking a sip of her Tuborg Classic. Usually, she is to be found at the working side of the bar, but she often comes just to talk to her customers and get a beer.

“I love this place, because so many different people come here everyday, everybody is welcome here,” says Kristine.

Nørre Bodega is part of an organisation called Fælles for Nørrebro or ‘Nørrebro for Unity’ in English. This organisation consists of bars and shops to fight crime and to stand together when it happens, but the organisation also tries to connect different cultures.

Attacks at bar founded Nørrebro for Unity

The organisation was founded 5 years ago after a situation at a bar called Mucki Bar. Foreman for the organisation, Franck Johnsen felt the urge to do something, and then he created the organisation.

Some of the bars are still suffering from drug sales- and consumption, vandalism and violence. Last summer, several bars including Mucki Bar were vandalized by young boys who claimed Nørrebro was under Sharia influence. This was covered widely by Danish Media.

But Franck Johnsen is not happy about the coverage by the media.

“The media made it sound like these boys were the bad guys, but really it was some guests at one bar that – in my opinion, were racist,” Franck says.

Working with the police

“Two weeks ago, one of our bartenders was punched in the face. He threw them out after they behaved badly and did cocaine in the bathroom,” says Kristine Madsen with a lit Marlboro in her hand and adds that the police came the day after.

“They showed up, fully armed and with bulletproof vests. They said that they would be present. It was nice that they showed this kind of authority, says Kristine.

Compared to last summer, it is much more calm in the streets, but there is still more police presence at Nørrebro, compared to the other neighbourhoods, the press department at the Copenhagen police says.

Kristine is glad, that there is a cooperation with the authorities, but she still thinks, that the conversation between the minority groups helps the most.

“These events, and this crime which takes place has nothing to do with religion. It is just stupid people. And it is important to show people, that we are alike. It is not just ‘us and them’,” Kristine says.

Nørrebro is calm

Last fall ‘Nørrebro for Unity’ hosted a party at ‘The Red Square’. The idea was to show each other and the rest of the city, that the unity is strong. It went off peacefully.

Today Nørrebro is calm, according to Franck Johnsen. Bars and shops are doing well, and there is no violence. Kristine agrees, even though they had the violent incident a couple of weeks ago.

The light from the windows has disappeared, and the windows are no longer the source. A lot more people have joined the smoky atmosphere. It is quiz night tonight. Kristines boyfriend, Hjalte is the quizmaster. Before he starts, he hands out little flyers.

“Five ways to have a good time at our bar,” the flyer says and comes with 5 advice.

Some of the advice are about not doing drugs. Some of them are about helping your bartender. The last one is: “Drink beer”

“I want you all to read what the flyer says!” shouts Hjalte. “Read it and consider what it says. That’s all i am going to say.” And then the quiz starts. And continues in with laughs and shouts. But in a peaceful way.