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Danish squatter riots swell

Scores of the 500 arrested are foreigners. European neighbors hold sympathy protests.

March 04, 2007|From the Associated Press

COPENHAGEN — Protesters from across northern Europe flocked to the Danish capital Saturday to join riots sparked Thursday by the eviction of squatters from an abandoned building that had been a center for young leftists and punk rockers.

More than 500 people, scores of them foreigners, have been arrested in the riots. Authorities said more than 200 were arrested early Saturday after overnight clashes in which demonstrators pelted police with cobblestones and set fire to cars.

As news of the riots spread, sympathizers around Europe rallied support for the protesters. Police said activists from Sweden, Norway and Germany had joined hundreds of Danish youths in the protests. The Danes warned like-minded foreigners Saturday that the borders were tightening after two nights of clashes had turned the normally quiet streets of Copenhagen into a battle zone.

Sympathy protests were held in Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

A school was vandalized and several buildings damaged by fire early Saturday. One protester was reportedly wounded in the violence, and 25 were injured the night before in what police have called Denmark's worst riots in a decade.

More scuffles were reported in various parts of the city Saturday night. Dozens of police vans patrolled the streets and broke up gatherings of protesters to prevent larger mobs from forming. Police said several of those arrested had Molotov cocktails.

The riots were sparked when an anti-terrorism squad on Thursday evicted the squatters from the red brick building that had been used by squatters since the 1980s. Built in 1897, it was a community theater for the labor movement and a culture and conference center; Vladimir I. Lenin was among its visitors. In recent years, it has hosted concerts with performers including Australian Nick Cave and Icelandic singer Bjork.

The eviction had been planned since last year, when courts ordered the squatters to hand the building over to a Christian congregation that bought it six years ago. The squatters said the city had no right to sell the building, and they demanded another building for free as a replacement.

Copenhagen's famed Little Mermaid statue was covered with pink paint, but police could not say whether it was linked to the riots.

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