Danish squatters evicted, but plight remains
Rioting in Copenhagen - perhaps the worst since World War II - has brought the plight of Danish squatters to the fore. Although police have achieved the immediate aim of clearing several buildings taken over by about 150 homeless Danes, the long-term problem remains of an increasingly militant squatter community threatening reprisal.Skip to next paragraph
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''We've been ripped off by the older generation,'' one young woman said. ''First they can't give us a job and now they take away our home.''
A veteran of the 1980 squatter riots, she is typical of the jobless thousands between age 17 and 25 who are without close home ties. Many report that their parents are divorced and contact is completely broken.
The present unrest follows the pattern of clashes between squatters and police last year in Amsterdam and Berlin, but where dialogue has helped to reduce tension in Copenhagen, tempers are running high within the city council. Lord Mayor Agon Weidekamp has so far refused to discuss his decision to call in the police with the media or anybody else.
The series of disturbances began New Year's Eve, when police began evicting squatters from a condemned four-story building in the city's northwest district. While a number of squatters have voluntarily left their dwellings at the request of the police, many have strongly resisted.
Some occupants pelted police with stones and their supporters overturned a police car, setting it ablaze. Since then bus routes have been diverted and riot police have cordoned off several streets. Although there have been a number of scuffles, no serious injuries have so far been reported. About 100 squatters have been arrested.
Some squatters, with the support of sympathizers, have been rampaging through city streets throwing stones and bricks through the windows of official premises. Banks have been a popular target with hardly a window left unsmashed in the Danish Bank's main branch in the central square.
The Social Democratic mayor has been widely accused of intransigence and heavy-handedness. Moderate city councilor Kierson Petersen called this week's events ''a purely stupid manifestation of power.''
But Mr. Weidekamp's sharpest opposition in the left-leaning administration comes from popular councilor Villo Sigurdsson. A representative of the leftist Socialist People's Party, he has been gradually phased out of responsibilities for housing after his controversial statement that squatters should occupy unused buildings.