Massive street riots turn Denmark's Copenhagen into wild messy city

Danish police braced for more demonstrations Friday after some of the worst street clashes in recent years in Copenhagen, sparked by the eviction of squatters from a building, officials said.

Hundreds of officers, many in riot gear, were on the streets Thursday, and similar numbers were expected Friday as reinforcements arrived from other parts of the country.

"We are taking all eventualities into consideration and we will be plastering the whole city with police," Copenhagen police operations chief Per Larsen said.

A total of 219 people, 178 men and 41 women, were arrested and 25 people were treated for injuries Thursday when protesters threw cobblestones, lit fires and overturned cars in the Danish capital in demonstrations that continued late into the night.

Some of the arrested and injured included foreigners, who had joined the protests that started in the morning after a helicopter hoisted members of Denmark's anti-terror police onto the building's roof and started evicting squatters.

Twenty-one foreigners from Germany, Sweden, Italy, Greece, United States, Lithuania, Norway, Britain and France were among the arrested.

Thursday's eviction of the 35 squatters from the former theater in central Copenhagen drew ire from youth, who have viewed it as free public housing for years. The building also has been a popular cultural center for anarchists, punk rockers and left-wing groups, where performers have included Australian musician Nick Cave and Icelandic singer Bjork.

The injured included a German man who suffered head injuries, two officers with minor burns and a Dane who had several fingers blown off by a powerful firecracker he had planned to throw at police.

Early Friday, city employees cleared the streets of charred cars, rubble, barricades and smoldering remains of bonfires. The smell of smoke hung heavy over the usually quiet Danish capital.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen said protesters "misused their demonstration right" when they became violent, the AP says.

"I vigorously urge the young people and their supporters to regain their composure," she said. "Their anger must not unleash violence and vandalism."

In neighboring Germany, up to 800 people demonstrated Thursday evening in Hamburg in a show of solidarity with the Danish squatters, and 14 people were detained. Demonstrations also were held in the capitals of Norway and Sweden.

In Finland, dozens of protesters shouted support for the Danish squatters outside the Danish Embassy in the capital, Helsinki, in a peaceful demonstration.

The eviction of the building 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-story building while it was still in use.

They have demanded another building for free as replacement, and a foundation backing the squatters has offered to pay 12 million kroner (EUR 1.6 million; US$2.1 million) for another facility.

In December, a rally of some 1,000 people protesting the eviction turned violent, and police detained some 300 people.

Photo by The Associated Press

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