European anarchists flock to join rioters |

European anarchists flock to join rioters

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Anarchists from across northern Europe flocked to join protesters in the Danish capital on Saturday after two nights of riots sparked by the eviction of squatters from an abandoned building that had been a center for young leftists and punk rockers.More than 500 people, including scores of foreigners, have been arrested since the riots started Thursday. Authorities said more than 200 were arrested early Saturday following overnight clashes in which demonstrators pelted police with cobblestones and set fire to cars.A school was also vandalized and several buildings damaged by fire early Saturday. One protester was reportedly wounded in the violence, while 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 after a day of relative calm. 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 were carrying Molotov cocktails or firecrackers, but that no major violence was reported.Police said activists from Sweden, Norway and Germany had joined hundreds of Danish youth in the protests. Sympathy protests were held in Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland.Peter Vesterheden, the head of Copenhagen’s prisons, said 25 foreigners had been arrested.Critics said the demonstrations were misguided because they target a Scandinavian welfare state that ranks among the world’s most egalitarian countries.”The spoiled kids in the Youth House woke up to reality in Danish society where you have a job and pay rent,” Anders Fredrik Mihle of the governing Liberal Party’s youth wing said, referring to the building where the squatters had been evicted.Like its neighbors, Denmark has a generous welfare system supported by high taxes. Education is free and health services are heavily subsidized. However, leftists have criticized the center-right government for eroding the system with proposed reforms including raising the retirement age and trimming student grants.The protesters see their fight to keep the “Youth House,” a four-story building used by young squatters since the 1980s, as symbolic of a wider struggle against a capitalist establishment.”This is a display of anger and rage after more than seven years of struggle to keep what is ours,” said Jan, a 22-year-old activist who has been coming to the building for the last 10 years. He declined to give his last name, saying that was the norm among people frequenting the building.The riots were sparked when an anti-terror squad on Thursday evicted the squatters from the red brick building with graffiti-covered walls. Built in 1897, it was a community theater for the labor movement and a culture and conference center; Vladimir Lenin was among its visitors. In recent years, it has hosted concerts with performers like Australian Nick Cave and Icelandic singer Bjork.As news of the riots spread, sympathizers around Europe rallied support for the protesters. 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.”Solidarity among people has no borders, just like the Spanish civil war or the youth rebellion in the late 1960s. People recognize themselves in such causes,” said Rene Karpantschof, a sociology lecturer at the University of Copenhagen and former squatter.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.Police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch said officers searched more than 10 homes in Copenhagen in an effort to track down activists. Meanwhile, vandals covered Copenhagen’s famed Little Mermaid statue with pink paint, but Munch could not say whether the vandalism was linked to the riots.Copenhagen residents had mixed feelings about the demonstrations.”The idea of an alternative society is good,” said Berit Larsen, 57, as she watched a peaceful demonstration against the eviction on Saturday afternoon. “We need to have room for everyone but the violence we have seen is not what I consider an alternative way for society.”—Associated Press writers Mattias Karen in Copenhagen and Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.

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