- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

COPENHAGEN — Danish police clashed yesterday with hundreds of activists protesting the forced eviction of squatters from a radical cultural center in a notoriously rough neighborhood of Copenhagen.

More than 150 people, including minors and foreigners, were arrested during riots that erupted after a dawn raid on the Ungdomshuset youth center in the Noerrebro district.

Clashes continued throughout the day and reached a crescendo in the evening when up to 1,000 youths attacked police with stones, bottles, pots of paint and firecrackers, and set up barricades, lighted fires and overturned vehicles.

Riot police used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom were masked.

By late yesterday, the violence had spread from Noerrebro to the nearby Christianshavn district.

Christianshavn is next to the so-called “free city” of Christiania, an autonomous community in the city set up more than 30 years ago.

The four-story Ungdomshuset at the center of the violence has been a haven for rebels, punks and squatters since the 1980s, when it was given to them by the city of Copenhagen.

The building was recently sold to a fundamentalist Christian sect, which has demanded the eviction of the youths. The sect plans to tear down the building.

An August court ruling ordered an eviction, but the occupants insist the center belongs to them.

The Ungdomshuset Web site says the group operates under five simple guidelines: no sexism, no “heterosexism” — prejudice in favor of heterosexuals — no racism, no hard drugs and no violence.

It was not known how many people were injured yesterday. Danish television TV2 reported that a man who was taken to a hospital for head injuries he sustained during the morning riots was a German citizen.

Some banks and stores barricaded their entrances to protect their businesses from the riots.

Police said they were re-establishing border controls to prevent an influx of the youths’ supporters from other countries, in particular Germany.

The Noerrebro neighborhood is home to a large population of young radicals and squatters and is the scene of regular altercations with police. In May 1993, bloody clashes erupted in the district after Denmark’s “yes” vote to the European Union Maastricht Treaty.

In recent weeks, some parents had stood guard outside the building day and night to protect their children against any police offensive.

“Why can’t we have an alternative building for young people?” asked Sophie, an 18-year-old punk who watched from afar as police cleaned up a smoldering barricade during a lull in the clashes.

She and her 17-year-old friend Kyra said they frequented Ungdomshuset to “attend underground concerts and plays,” or when they were angry with their parents.


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