COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Christiania, a celebrated Danish hippy enclave and heart of the Copenhagen cannabis trade, will mark its 40th anniversary on Monday and sell shares to the public to raise funds to get the government finally off its back.
Proceeds from Christiania "People's shares" will go into a fund to carry out a 76-million-crown ($14 million) real estate deal with the government which will give Christianites the right to stay on property where they have been squatting since 1971.
"This is a way for people to participate in making sure Christiania remains part of the public heritage," said Risenga Manghezi, spokesman for the share sales campaign. "Anybody and everybody can buy it."
The shares in denominations of 20 crowns and up will not give holders any stake in the property or voting rights, so buying them amounts to a donation, the organizers said.
"It gives them ownership in something that is already theirs for free, so we feel it is a pretty safe investment," said Manghezi, who has lived in Christiania for a year.
A court ruled earlier this year that residents will be allowed to buy most of Christiania, a cluster of old brick barracks and brightly painted wooden structures built by squatters, from the state to end decades of dispute.
The shares of special certificates will be sold to the general public from Monday at bars and cafes in Christiania and on the Internet at: here
They bear the slogan "worth more than money."
The deal is part of what officials call the "legitimization" of Christiania, an area of Copenhagen covering 32 hectares of land (79 acres) where the hashish trade still flourishes on Pusher Street despite a police crackdown since 2004.
The abandoned military area was initially occupied by people from the surrounding neighborhood of Christianshavn who wanted a playground for their children. It developed into a commune and bastion of the hippy movement in the 1970s.
Over the decades it has been a sanctuary for homeless people and drug addicts -- only about a third of residents "are connected with the labor market," officials say -- but also artists, intellectuals, small businessmen and others. Today it is one of Copenhagen's most popular tourist attractions.
Monday will be the first time that Christianites will be able to celebrate their anniversary without the threat of being bulldozed, daily newspaper Politiken said.
Under the deal with the government, which was the result of 10 years of negotiations, none of Christiania's 850 residents will become a property owner, but the Fund will carry out the transaction on their behalf and they will remain tenants.
A first installment of 46 million crowns is due on April 15 next year, so that is the initial ambition for the share sale, Manghezi said. The rest of the money is due in installments over the next six years.
"We would like to be the last place standing that is not overwhelmed by private ownership of housing," Manghezi said. ($1 = 5.439 Danish crowns)
Reporting by John Acher; Editing by Peter Graff