Friday the 10th of May, 2019 at 6.30 in the morning, Steen Raaschou, alias blogger “Snaphanen” lay in his bed and slept. His friend Mette had gotten up early and sat in the living room reading, when suddenly there was a knocking on the door. Outside stood 5 (five!) police officers who had come to arrest Steen Raaschou. They woke him up, and when he had gotten dressed they handcuffed him, seized his computers, drove him to Bellahøj Police Station, where they took his shoelaces, let him wait for an hour, whereafter they also did a swab to secure his DNA.
At about the same time, the journalist and parliamentary candidate for the “New Conservatives”, Jeppe Juhl, was subjected to a similar treatment.
Their crime? There is still some uncertainty, but the violent arrests and utterly disproportionate interference with their peace and freedom were due to the police saying that the two men had shared the murder video of the two young Scandinavian women who had been beheaded while hiking in the mountains of Morocco.
In their own words, they had not done so, but murder video or not, the actions of the police are completely disproportionate to the seriousness of the alleged offense. And it is no less disturbing that officers, to both Steen Raaschou and Jeppe Juhl excused the treatment with "... it's political, you know".
The video of the killings was also the original focal point of Jaleh Tavakoli's case. She had actually shared the video, which spiralled her into a Kaftaesque nightmare, as Social Services threatened to withdraw the care permit for the family's 8-year-old foster daughter, because Jaleh Tavakoli was “not a proper digital role model" for her foster daughter. In their efforts to have Jaleh Tavakoli declared unfit as a foster mother, Social Services subsequently expanded its criticism by stating that she, with her participation in the public debate - as a general rule - put her daughter at risk because she (Jaleh Tavakoli) received threats.
Most recently, a 54-year-old man was picked up by police at his residence, arrested and taken to the station to have his photo, fingerprints and DNA taken for an Islam-critical / derogatory posting on Facebook.
All of these cases mark a violent shift in the exercise of authority away from the democratic legal certainty that has so far characterized our society, towards something that can best be described as a totalitarian police state. In that sense, there is no big difference between Denmark and Sweden, where a few weeks ago, Swedish-Bulgarian scientist Bilyana Martinovski was arrested at the airport by 10 heavily armed policemen, and who was subjected to the same treatment as Raaschou and Juhl for a similar ”crime”.
These are harsh words this November day, but no matter how you look at the situation, there are really no other ways to view this new reality: When have we previously (excluding the censorship of the WWII occupation) risked violent arrests and the intervention in our peace and freedom of speech? When has speech been criminalized to such an extent that the police show up at the residence of peaceful people and frighten the living daylights out of them? Or when have pillars of the community, kind people who have the largesse to take the children of others to their bosom and into their family while also participating actively in the public debate – been threatened to silence by the authorities?
We have not seen this before in Denmark. It is a very ominous development for our freedom of speech and thus our democracy, because people are talking about this, and many are already staying silent rather than risking the treatment Steen Raaschou and Jeppe Juhl have received.
"... it's political, you know," as the officer told Steen Raaschou. Really. I can't imagine that those already hard-pressed police officers, who already are burdened with an overtime the equivalent to 600 man-years, even think it is an optimal use of their meager resources to send 5 cops home to arrest a peaceful 65 -year-old man. It stinks to high heaven of political prioritization higher up in the system. And it is a an ill odor to all freedom-loving and law-abiding. It smells of Stasi and GDR.
Steen Raaschou has still not recovered his computers from the police.