Saturday, March 03, 2007

Violent clashes continue in Copenhagen over squatter evictions

Al Jazeera - At least 188 people are reported to have been arrested during a second night of violent protests in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

Protesters erected burning barricades and set cars ablaze as hundreds of police officers in riot gear used tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the eviction of squatters from a building.

The violence began after protesters gathered near a square a block away from the house from which the squatters were evicted on Thursday.

"We have arrested 188 people, and around 400 in total since Thursday," said a police officer, who declined to be named.

One demonstrator was injured in a confrontation with police in the central Noerrebro district.

A bonfire in the street ignited a blaze in a building housing a kindergarten and an adjacent two-story house, but was quickly extinguished and no one was injured.

Police officers patrolled the neighbourhoods of Noerrebro and Christianshavn on Friday where 217 people were arrested on Thursday after activists clashed with police.

The central Copenhagen building had become a popular cultural centre for anarchists, punk rockers and left-wing groups, where performers have included Australian musician Nick Cave and Icelandic singer Bjork.

Police borrowed vehicles from neighbouring Sweden to help control the protests and several shops in the area, where Thursday's clashes took place, had boarded their windows fearing more violence.

Munch said the situation was "calming down" on Saturday morning but "it has been a rather busy and sad night".

Activists have vowed to keep up protests to win back control of the building with two authorised demonstrations also planned for Saturday.

Jan, a spokesman for the centre, told Reuters news agency that they planned to disrupt traffic in the capital with "pin-point actions creating short breakdowns and disruptions.

Earlier on Friday, a dozen demonstrators occupied the headquarters of the Social Democratic Party to protest against the eviction and demand that Copenhagen's mayor take action to give the squatters a new house.

Nikolaj Villumsen, a member of the Socialistic Youth Front, told Al Jazeera that he did not support the violence; but he believed Denmark needed more youth centres.

"If the politicians don't want to give a new house to the young people then the conflict will go on.

"The Danish government should provide a house for the young people. It will only cost about 12 million Danish krone.

"The government has already spent about 7 million krone in trying to combat the riots."

The eviction had been planned since last year, when courts ordered the squatters to hand it over to a Christian congregation that bought it six years ago.

The squatters refused, saying the city had no right to sell the four-storey building while it was still in use.