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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 14:32 GMT
Denmark rioters' squat demolished
A couple watch the demolition of the Ungdomshuset building in Copenhagen
Activists watched the building's demolition from a distance
Bulldozers have begun the demolition of a building at the centre of rioting in the Danish capital Copenhagen, after the eviction of squatters last week.

About 650 people have been arrested following three nights of clashes between protesters and police.

The unrest has been some of the worst seen in the Danish capital for decades.

The trouble began after an anti-terror squad raided the Ungdomshuset building, which had been occupied by left-wing activists since the 1980s.

The local government sold the building to a Christian group in 2000, which then obtained a court order to have the squatters evicted.

Mechanical diggers bring the Ungdomshuset crashing to earth

But the activists vowed not to leave, saying the council had no right to sell the building while it was still in use.

They feared the Ungdomshuset, or Youth House, which had become an international cause celebre, would be knocked down if they were turned out.

And so it turned out on Monday morning, when at 0800 (0700 GMT) the demolition began.

Workmen wore masks and the company names on their vehicles were blacked out, apparently as a precaution against any reprisals.

The scene was watched over by large numbers of police and a small number of young people.

"They are breaking my heart. I cannot stand it," said Birgitte, a black-clad 21-year-old woman with dreadlocks.

'Ringleaders' held'

The capital had been relatively quiet for the previous 24 hours, though earlier the confrontation over the house provoked some of the worst unrest in decades.

The districts of Noerrebro and Christiania were left looking like a war zone after barricades and cars were set on fire.

Protesters tore up cobble stones and hurled them at police, who had responded with organised charges, the BBC's Julian Isherwood reported.

Police said they had many of the ringleaders of the rioting in cells by Monday, after making a large number of arrests over the weekend.

Many have been remanded in custody for up to two weeks, and some of the foreign nationals involved - predominantly from Germany and Sweden - are being deported.

The weekend also saw peaceful demonstrations taking place in support of the protesters.

Around 1,000 bicyclists staged a mounted protest on Sunday, while banners proclaiming "Long live Ungdomshuset!" and "Stop police violence!" were held aloft.

Bulldozers demolish the former squat building

In pictures: Danish riots
03 Mar 07 |  In Pictures
Danish police arrest hundreds
17 Dec 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Denmark
12 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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