Danish police arrest up to 200 after street riots in Copenhagen

Copenhagen police braced for more violence Saturday after two nights of street clashes with leftist 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 Saturday morning, police said 188 people had been detained, a school had been vandalized and several buildings were 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 Thursday after a police anti-terror squad evicted squatters from a downtown building that for years has served as a popular cultural center for anarchists, punk rockers and left-wing groups.

Foreign activists from Sweden, Norway and Germany joined hundreds of Danish youth, 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 people injured, police said.

Violence broke out again after midnight Saturday when protesters gathered near the youth house in the Noerrebro district of Copenhagen. The demonstrators 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 scrambling to put out blazes that sent smoke billowing into the night sky.

About three hours later, a bonfire in the street ignited a blaze in a nearby building housing a kindergarten and an adjacent two-story house. Police said the fire was quickly extinguished and no one was injured.

Across the city, other groups of protesters set fire to trash bins, while protesters ransacked a school and hurled chairs, desks and computers onto the street.

One demonstrator was injured in the clashes, Munch said, but a hospital official could not immediately be reached for details on the protester's condition. The Politiken newspaper said on its Web site that the rioter had been hit by a cobblestone.

"After a very hectic night, calm finally has settled over the city," Munch said. "We have something like more than 400 people arrested in the past days."

The clashes were Denmark's worst since May 18, 1993, when police fired into a crowd of rioters protesting the outcome of a European Union referendum. Ten of the protesters were wounded.

The building at the center 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, saying the city had no right to sell the building, which has become a hub for cultural events and concerts, featuring performers like Australian Nick Cave and Icelandic singer Bjork. They have demanded another building for free as a replacement, the AP wrote.

Police said the protesters were a mix of left-wing extremists and youth vandals with no clear political motive.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen urged the protesters "to regain their composure."

In the southwestern Swedish city of Malmo, police arrested three people on Friday in connection with the Copenhagen clashes, the Swedish news agency TT said. They were held on suspicion of planning to participate in violent protests and possession of explosives and flammable material.

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

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