Tens of thousands of Danes demonstrated on Sunday, Feb. 5, against the government’s plan to abolish a public holiday in order to fund the defense budget in the midst of the war in Ukraine, according to AFP.
“The proposal is totally unfair,” said Lizette Risgaard, head of the FH union, which initiated the demonstration and has 1.3 million members in the country of 5.9 million people. The demonstrators, estimated by police and organizers to number between 40,000 and 50,000, arrived from all over the country by bus in the capital.
Gathering outside of Copenhagen’s parliament, they waved placards, chanting “Don’t touch our holidays!” and “Say ‘No’ to war!”
Social Democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s left-right coalition, in power since December, plans to abolish the religious holiday known as the Great Day of Prayer, celebrated since the 17th century.
The government wants to use the money generated from canceling the day, an estimated 4.5 billion Danish crowns ($654 million), to increase the defense budget to NATO’s target of 2 percent of GDP by 2030, instead of 2033 as previously planned. The government insists that the acceleration of the timetable is necessary because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago.
However, unions say making Danes work an extra day would violate collective wage agreements negotiated with the government. The government’s decision “is an attack on our Danish model,” union head Risgaard told AFP.
Kurt Frederiksen, head of the hotel and services branch of the 3F union, said he also opposes the government’s plan.
“We don’t believe that money for the war will help bring peace,” he said.
Johannes Gregers Jensen, head of the Copenhagen branch of the Lutheran Church in Denmark, of which 73 percent of Danes are members, regretted the authorities’ plan. Denmark has a long tradition that church affairs “are decided by the faithful, and the government should not interfere in that,” he said.
“But it does, and that is a huge problem,” the same religious official added.