“We have to guard those who are threatened”

Soldiers now guard the synagogue in central Copenhagen. So what do the city's residents think about the public military presence?

It’s a sight you might have seen while traveling in Europe. But it’s a first for Denmark – armed military in the streets. Parliament has decided to use 160 soldiers to man the border and guard Jewish institutions in Denmark in order to free up police resources.

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On Friday, September 29, soldiers took guard outside the synagogue on Krystalgade for the first time. Plain-clothes police have guarded the synagogue since February 2015, when Omar el-Hussain murdered a volunteer guard, Dan Uzan.

We spoke to some of Copenhagen’s residents about the military presence on the city streets.

Karoline Amalie Severinsen (left), 23, student
Somehow it’s better that they are visible like this. There used to be just one police car and then some dude who would talk into the collar of his jacket. And you would know that he’s an undercover cop. This way it’s more transparent. If this makes people more comfortable, then I’m fine with that. I’ve been staring at the soldiers for the past 15 minutes and I think it’s super comforting that they’re actually talking to the passersby. More of that please!

Hans Johansson, 87, retired

Well, it’s something new, because before it was just the police. That was somehow more anonymous, but now it’s overwhelming and looks violent. But the soldiers look very friendly. We have to guard those who are threatened, though. We saw it back in 1933, so we have to learn from that.

Claus Olsen (left), 53, pedagogue
I came by randomly and I just saw them standing there. I think it’s sad that we live in a society where that’s necessary. It’s also sad that the police were there to begin with, but now with the military it just looks a bit more overwhelming. There are soldiers in front of the building and the road is blocked. But on the other hand, I think it’s good that the police get more resources for other things. I live in Nørrebro, by the Red Square where all the shooting is taking place, so that’s scary too.

Anders Rambøl, 21, student

I liked it better when it was the police. But I don’t know if having the soldiers there creates insecurity. I think it’s good that we show, from the government’s side, that we want to protect minorities here in Denmark.

Malou (right), 24, student
David 32, diving instructor

Malou: Well, we’re both Jewish and we know that there’s usually police and the congregation’s own guards, but I’ve never seen the military like this before. It’s necessary, but it’s also a bit frightening. In a way, it’s overwhelming. It looks different when a soldier is walking around then when it’s a police officer. But as long as they’re looking after us, it’s all right.

David: It’s a good thing. Thanks brother (says to a soldier passing by). We had a very good friend who was shot here, you know? So there’s a need for it, unfortunately. But it’s crazy that Denmark makes its military available.

Sidsel Dahlager (left), 22, student

At first, we thought there was only one soldier, so we thought he must get super bored, because it seems a bit meaningless that they have to stand there like that. I feel that there are other ways to protect a synagogue then to let a couple of guys from the military stand there with huge AK-47s. I don’t think it creates that much security, I honestly think it’s a bit uncomfortable. I think it’s a strong message to send that we need the military to protect us.

Peter Torm, 21, student

I don’t have any problem with them being there. I went by and thought that it looked a bit strange, and thought that it perhaps was because of some sort of threat. It’s almost like there’s a state of emergency, with all the police cars and the soldiers with machine guns.

I don’t feel uncomfortable with the military being there, but I don’t feel unsafe in Denmark, so it’s different. M

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By Hana Hasanbegović

Originally from the Balkans, Hana has a Master's degree in English, with a focus on literature and linguistics. @hanahasanbegovic

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