I’ve just returned from a very moving public memorial to those killed and injured in the terror attacks in Copenhagen at the weekend. Thousands of people gathered in Østerbro near the Krudttonden cafe, where the first shooting took place, to hear speeches and music. Despite the crowds this was typically Danish – calm, respectful, united.
Among the speakers was Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. She spoke mostly in Danish but also offered her thanks in both English and French to those supporting Denmark in its time of need. “We feel we are not alone,” she said to big cheers. Also on stage was the French ambassador to Denmark, François Zimeray, who was caught up in the first attack. He talked about this being a ‘before and after’ life event and thanked the Danish police, acknowledging that without them “I wouldn’t be standing here”.
And everywhere I looked you couldn’t fail to see the increased police presence. Of course, that’s what you’d expect in a city that’s been under attack. But having lived in Copenhagen for almost two years, it’s not what I’m used to. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have seen a police officer, yet alone one armed. In this capital, everything seems safe: young children cycle alone to school; parents leave sleeping babies in prams outside restaurants; children still play on the streets.
There is a danger that this freedom and openness will now be lost. The country has a lot to deal with, not least the very public debate it’s been having for some time about immigration and integration. Tonight I felt hope that Denmark will do all it can to stay united. But with an election later this year, I just hope that won’t be exploited.