Martial Artists Protest Danish Human Rights Violations at Parliament
Yesterday, July 3, 2007, in the plaza before the Danish Parliament near the ancient Borsen stockmarket (click its image at left to see film of protest), a group of martial artists protested "softly" against Denmark's current and past history of human rights violations. They performed Capoeira forms, a martial arts developed by Caribbean and Latin American slaves and their descendents, in a very similar way the Japanese underclass, forbidden to posses weapons, developed their range of martial arts of using the body as a weapon and for spiritual and cultural practice. Capoeira encorporates martial arts with a unique flavor of African dance and music.
In 2005, representatives from the west-Indies African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance (ACRRA), who are descendents of Africans sold into slavery by Denmark, came to Copenhagen, asking for an official government apology. The petition was rejected by the Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen administration. Denmark, through its unique maritime and commerce history, actually grew into one of the world's wealthiest and most prolific slave traders, despite the reputation Great Britain and the US has.
As well, the Capoeira dancers yesterday protested other issues few understand in the slave-trade cases connected to the former Danish west Indies. Included was the sale of the Virgin Islands held by Denmark to the United States. In effect the people on those islands re-experienced "being sold." This year marks the 90th anniversary of that event.
On July 3, 1848, the brutal conditions the Danes enforced on the African inhabitants of St. Croix and St. Thomas prompted a rebellion that eventually forced Danish governor, Peter von Scholten, to sign a sort of emancipation proclamation. He had no other choice since the islands were so far away from Denmark and the local economy was about to collapse. One of the many issues ACRRA has with Denmark, is how the history books do not reflect the actual events, glorifying instead this unprecedented Danish "liberation" of slaves on the small islands.
Brazilian-born martial arts Master Rui, and some of his Danish students performed their "Capoeira-Roda" in front of Denmark's parliament to remind Danes not only of the past and it's current effects in many regions of the world, including Brazil, but more significantly, according to Rui, the pressing issues of discrimination which Denmark engages in now. He points to the 2006 report (actually the third such report against Denmark) from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and a similar one by the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism, quite critical of Denmark's racist treatment of ethnic and religious minorities at home. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a very good friend of US President George Bush, has reacted aggressively against these many reports coming from all directions. On March 16, 2006, he spoke before National TV-2, stating, "The report is so filled with mistakes that it would be ludicrous to take it seriously." (source: http://nyhederne-dyn.tv2.dk/baggrund/article.php/id-4135077.html). Most who are familiar with the foundations to these reports' strong admonishment of current Danish behaviors against its minorities suggest that in effect, the Danish government is pulling the wool over everyone's eyes through a very a intelligent rewriting of the facts by a good PR machine. In a way, according to Rui and others involved with the Capoeira-Roda protest, this painfully echoes with the false history of the slaves' emancipation by Governor von Scholten in 1848.
Denmark enjoys a special relationship with America. Approximately 10% of its population has emigrated to the US.
In the short clip of the protest I filmed yesterday, July 3, 2007, you will see the Danish Parliamentary castle (Christiansborg). As the film goes 180 degres around, you will notice the huge statue of King Frederik VII on his bronze horse behind the Capoeira dancers. He reigned in Denmark until 1863... an interesting date, since that was when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Paradoxically, Denmark was one of the first nations to make slavery illegal on home soil in Europe, in a 1792 law that went into effect 10 years later, however the black market from Denmark flourished long after despite the legislation, and slavery continued in the colonies, like the Virgin Islands. You can access the YouTube film by clicking here or the image above. Master Rui, a Brazilian trained at Copacabana in Rio de Janeir, Brazil, teaches at the Capoeira Gruppen Senzala in Copenhagen.
URL to the Capoeira demonstration, and a unique view of Copenhagen on
a gorgeous day: http://youtube.com/watch?v=V1X2odyjTqA
You can also click on the Borsen stock market image above.
Below is the petition from the Danish National Institute for Human Rights:
April 11, 2005
Whereas the U.S. Virgin Islands was formerly the Danish West Indies under the rule of the Kingdom of Denmark,
Whereas during the period of 1671 to 1848, people of Africa were unjustly transported to the Danish West Indies by trading companies under the authority of the King of Denmark, and were forced into chattel slavery,
Whereas the Kingdom of Denmark derived great wealth from the institution of slavery in the Danish West Indies,
Whereas, the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands suffered economic, psychological, social and emotional harm during the period of slavery in the Danish West Indies,
Whereas, elements of the institutions of slavery and the harms caused thereby continued after 1848,
Whereas in 1917, for $25,000,000 in gold bouillon, the Kingdom of Denmark sold the Danish West Indies to the United States of America without consulting the descendants of the enslaved Africans,
Whereas it is important that both the people of the Kingdom of Denmark and the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands acknowledge this shared history,
Whereas it is also important that both the people of the Kingdom of Denmark and the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands create from this shared history, a shared future that is mutually beneficial,
Whereas to that end, in collaboration with Virgin Islands Danish Apprenticeship (VIDA) program, a delegation from the U.S. Virgin Islands under the auspices of the African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance (ACRRA) traveled to the Kingdom of Denmark during the week of April 6-11, 2005, and met with the Danish Institute of Human Rights (DIHR), to engage in discussions on how the people of the U.S Virgin Islands and the people of the Kingdom of Denmark may enhance the relationship between them,
Whereas the ACRRA delegation and DIHR have found these discussions to be constructive and useful,
Whereas, in this context the parties have come to determine that reparations comprise education, restoration and reconciliation,
1. ACRRA and DIHR have determined that it is worthwhile to continue the examination of the matters discussed in these meetings,
2. ACRRA and DIHR hereby agree to establish a Joint Task Force to examine the question of reparations between the people of the Kingdom of Denmark and the people of the U.S Virgin Islands with respect to the institution of slavery.
3. The members of the Joint Task Force shall be nominated in equal numbers by ACRRA and DIHR, with provision for observers.
4. The head of ACRRA and the head of DIHR, or their designee shall co-chair the joint task force.
5. The Joint Task Force shall examine initiatives in education, restoration and reconciliation, which may include among other things, historical and other research projects, conferences, lecture series, cultural and other exchanges, and such other initiatives as the Joint Task Force may deem appropriate.
6. The Joint Task Force shall present a plan of action to ACRRA and DIHR within a period of no more than one hundred and eighty (180) days.
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