Thousands Demonstrate Peacefully in Denmark Following 2 Nights of Violent Rioting

Some 3,000 people demonstrated Saturday against the closure of an abandoned building that has served as a center for anarchists, leftists and punk rockers, following two nights of riots that left parts of the Danish capital strewn with burning cars and shattered glass.

More than 500 people, including scores of foreigners, have been arrested since the riots started Thursday. Authorities said 207 were arrested early Saturday following overnight clashes in which demonstrators pelted police with cobblestones and set fire to cars.

Demonstrators marched peacefully Saturday toward the so-called "Youth House," where an anti-terror squad evicted squatters on Thursday. Hundreds of police followed from a distance and sealed off streets around the disputed building.

"The idea of an alternative society is good," said Berit Larsen, 57, as she watched the demonstration pass. "We need to have room for everyone, but the violence we have seen is not what I consider an alternative way for society."

A school was vandalized and several buildings damaged by fire overnight. One protester was reportedly wounded in the violence early Saturday, while 25 were injured the night before.

"In the last 10 years we haven't had riots like we've seen in the past two days," police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch said. Police searched more than 10 homes in Copenhagen in an effort to track down activists, he said.

Meanwhile, vandals covered Copenhagen's famed Little Mermaid statue with pink paint. Police could not say whether the vandalism was linked to the riots.

Police said activists from Sweden, Norway and Germany had joined hundreds of Danish youth in the violent protests. In a sign the Danish youth expected foreign help, the Web page of "Ungdomshuset," or the youth house, posted a warning in English that Danish police had increased border controls.

"This is a display of anger and rage after more than seven years of struggle to keep what is ours," Jan, a 22-year-old activist who said he has been coming to the building for the last 10 years, told The Associated Press by telephone. He declined to give his last name, saying that was the norm among the people frequenting the building.

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 refused to leave, saying the city had no right to sell the building, which has hosted concerts with performers like Australian Nick Cave and Icelandic singer Bjork. They have demanded another building for free as a replacement.

The building has been viewed as free public housing by young squatters since the 1980s. Authorities say it has also been a staging point for numerous left-wing demonstrations that turned violent in recent years.

The clashes were Denmark's worst since May 18, 1993, when police fired into a crowd of rioters protesting the outcome of a European Union referendum. Ten of the protesters were wounded.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen urged the protesters "to regain their composure."

Sympathy protests were held in Hamburg, northern Germany, and in Norway, Sweden and Finland.