Copenhagen erupts over squatter action
POLICE in Copenhagen were braced for more violence last night after two nights of street clashes with youths that have turned parts of the Danish capital into a battlefield strewn with burning cars and shattered glass.
As the smoke and tear gas cleared yesterday morning, police said 188 people had been detained, a school vandalised and several buildings damaged by fire. Although there were no reports of serious injuries, police said the street violence was the worst in a decade.
"In the last 10 years we haven't had riots like we've seen in the past two days," police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch said.
The violence started on Thursday after a police anti-terror squad evicted squatters from a building that for years has served as a popular cultural centre for anarchists, punk rockers and left-wing groups.
Foreign activists from Sweden, Norway, Britain and Germany joined hundreds of Danish youths, hurling cobblestones at riot police and setting cars on fire. More than 200 people were detained in the first night of street violence and 25 were injured, police said.
Violence broke out again in the early hours of Saturday when protesters gathered near the youth house in the Noerrebro district. They briefly clashed with police and erected barricades, which they set on fire along with four cars.
Hundreds of police officers in riot gear used tear gas to disperse the crowd, pushing away demonstrators and onlookers to make way for firefighters.
Later on, a bonfire in the street ignited a blaze in a nearby building housing a kindergarten and an adjacent two-storey house. Police said the fire was quickly extinguished and no one was injured.
Across the city, protesters set fire to rubbish bins, while others ransacked a school and hurled chairs, desks and computers onto the street. One demonstrator was injured in the clashes, Munch said.
"After a very hectic night, calm finally has settled over the city. We have something like more than 400 people arrested in the past days," said Munch.
The clashes were Denmark's worst since May 1993, when police fired into a crowd of rioters protesting the outcome of a European Union referendum.
The building at the centre of the recent riots, known as "the youth house," has been viewed as free public housing by young squatters since the 1980s. The eviction had been planned since last year, when courts ordered the squatters to hand the building over to a Christian congregation that had bought it six years ago.
The squatters refused, arguing that the city had no right to sell the building, which has become a hub for cultural events and concerts, featuring performers such as Nick Cave and Bjrk. They have demanded another building for free as a replacement.
Copenhagen police have said that the protesters were a combination of left-wing extremists and youth vandals with no clear political motive.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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