Thousands rally to support Danish squatters

About 3,000 protesters took to the streets of Copenhagen on Saturday, two days after police raided and closed a building that had been occupied by squatters.

About 3,000 protesters took to the streets of Copenhagen on Saturday, two days afterpolice raided and closed abuilding that had been occupied by squatters for more than two decades.

The red brick building, known as the Youth House, had served over theyears as living quarters for anarchists, leftists and others, a community theatre for the labour movement, and a culture and conference centre.

The demonstration on Saturday was largely peaceful, but it followed two nights of riots over the evictions that left part of the capital strewn with broken glass and burned-out cars.

Police described the riots asthe worst in Denmark in 10 years, saying more than 500 people, including foreigners, have been arrested.

Long tradition of squatting

The riots began after a police squad evicted the squatters on Thursday. The building, constructed in 1897, had beenoccupied by squatterssince 1982 but the city sold it in 2000, according to BBC News.The owners obtained a court eviction order, the squatters refused to leave.

Squattingis much more established as a political and counterculture movement in European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlandsthan it is in North America. In its heyday in Amsterdam in the early 1980s, for example, an estimated 10,000 people were living in squats in the Dutch capital.

Activists from Sweden, Norway and Germany have reportedly gone to the Danish capital to lend their support to the protests.

During the riots, a school was vandalized, several buildings were damaged by fire and more than 25 protesters were injured.

Vandals also sprayed the city's famous Little Mermaid statue with pink paint but police could not say whether the vandalism was linked to the riots.The statuesits on a rock at the entrance of the Copenhagen harbour.

Early Saturday, police arrested more than 200 people after demonstrators threw stones at police and torched cars overnight.

Support from protesterselsewhere

Protests in support of the Danish demonstrations have been held in Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Danish authorities said Saturday that the borders would be tightened to prevent activists from other countries from joining in the fight for the building.

Rene Karpantschof, a sociology lecturer at the University of Copenhagen and former squatter, said the support from activists elsewhere is not a surprise.

"Solidarity among people has no borders, just like the Spanish civil war or the youth rebellion in the late 1960s," Karpantschof said.

"People recognize themselves in such causes."

With files from the Associated Press