Danish prime minister suffers minor whiplash after a man assaulted her in central Copenhagen

HELSINKI (AP) — The Danish prime minister is suffering minor whiplash but is otherwise fine after a man assaulted her in central Copenhagen, her office said in a statement Saturday.

Police confirmed on social media Platform X on Friday that “there has been an incident” with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and that a 39-year-old man was arrested.

Frederiksen was rushed to a hospital for a check-up soon after, and though unharmed, she was “shaken by the incident,” according to her office, adding that she has canceled her program for the day to rest.

The suspect appeared in a pre-trial custody hearing Saturday afternoon at the Copenhagen District Court in Frederiksberg, a municipality enclave within the Danish capital.

Citing details of the court hearing, Danish public broadcaster DR reported that the man is a Polish citizen residing in Denmark since 2019. He was ordered by a judge to be jailed until June 20 pending police investigation. The man is charged with violence against a person in public service.

According to DR, police said he was “probably under the influence of drugs and intoxicated" at the time of the incident that happened just before 6pm local time Friday.

Details of the incident remain unclear but local media reported that the man seems to have forcefully walked toward Frederiksen and pushed her hard while she was passing Kultorvet Square, one of Copenhagen's main piazzas. Following initial investigation, police believe the suspect hit the prime minister with a clenched fist on her right upper arm.

The judge in the court hearing said everything indicated that the man knew the person he assaulted was the Danish prime minister.

Police initially concluded that the man may have held a grudge against Frederiksen. The suspect, however, denied this assessment at Saturday’s court hearing, instead praising her as “a really good prime minister,” DR reported. Police will continue to investigate the motive for the man's action.

Two eyewitnesses, Anna Ravn and Marie Adrian, told the daily BT that they saw a man walking toward the prime minister and then “pushing her hard on the shoulder so she was shoved aside.” They stressed that she did not fall down.

Another witness, Kasper Jørgensen, told the Ekstra Bladet tabloid that a well-dressed man, who seemed part of Frederiksen's protection unit, and a police officer took down the assailant.

Politicians in the Scandinavian country and abroad condemned the assault.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, said he was shocked to hear what happened to Frederiksen, whom he called a friend.

“NATO allies stand together to protect our values, freedom, democracy and our rule of law,” Stoltenberg wrote on the social media platform, X, on Saturday.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that “an attack on a democratically elected leader is also an attack on our democracy.” Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said he strongly condemned “all forms of violence against the democratically elected leaders of our free societies.”

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, condemned on X what he called a “cowardly act of aggression.”

European Union parliamentary elections are currently underway in Denmark and the rest of the 27-nation bloc and will conclude on Sunday.

Frederiksen has been campaigning with the Social Democrats’ EU lead candidate, Christel Schaldemose. Media reports said the attack was not linked to a campaign event.

Violence against politicians has become a theme in the run-up to the EU elections. In May, a candidate from Germany's center-left Social Democrats was beaten and seriously injured while campaigning for a seat in the European Parliament.

In Slovakia, the election campaign was overshadowed by an attempt to assassinate populist Prime Minister Robert Fico on May 15, sending shockwaves through the nation of 5.4 million and reverberating throughout Europe.

Frederiksen, 46, is the leader of the Social Democratic Party and has been Denmark’s prime minister since 2019.

She has steered Denmark through the global COVID-19 pandemic and a controversial 2020 decision to wipe out Denmark’s entire captive mink population to minimize the risk of the small mammals retransmitting the virus.

Assaults on politicians in Denmark are rare.

On March 23, 2003, two activists threw red paint on then-Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen inside the parliament and were immediately arrested. Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller also suffered some splashes that day.

Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark. David Keyton in Berlin contributed to this report.