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Bibi van der Zee, "Nearly 200 Copenhagen Arrests After Protesters Set Fire to Barricades"

Nearly 200 Copenhagen Arrests After Protesters Set Fire to BarricadesBibi van der Zee

Almost 200 people were arrested late last night after protesters set fire to street barricades in a central Copenhagen neighbourhood. Protesters hurled fire bombs at riot police who responded with tear gas, officers said.

But pressure is growing for Danish police to account for their tactics, after four days of demonstrations have seen the controversial "kettle" tactic used three times, and more than 1,500 arrests, with 200 official complaints already filed.

The 194 arrests last night took place after several demonstrations during the day had been relatively peaceful. Climate Justice Action (CJA), the network organising an attempt tomorrow to take over the official talks at the Bella Centre, were holding a party in the Fredens Eng area of Christiania at which author Naomi Klein spoke.

At around 11pm Amy Jacobs, who had left the party with some friends and their three-month-old baby, said she heard bangs and explosions. "The police banged on the door, and we were saying 'We've got a baby in here, you can't come in,' and they just smashed the glass in the windows, they smashed down the door and came in."

"I'd brought my little sister down to Christiania for a drink," said Ludwig van Eekhout, a Dutch cameraman working for independent media. He saw a large fire being lit in the north part of Christiania by young activists, and heard bangs and crashes, so took his sister to the Woodstock bar for safety. While he was there the police arrived and began arresting people. "People were sitting outside having a beer and the police took them away; they took people from inside the bar outside, made them sit on the ground and cuffed their hands behind their back then took them away."

The police also fired tear gas into the CJA crowd in the Fredens Eng area. A witness who asked not to be named described seeing the tear gas coming towards him "like a huge grey wave. It burns your eyes, your skin. You feel as if your throat is closing up. It was really crowded and people were trying not to panic, but it's hard, especially if you've never been gassed before."

All but 15 of the people arrested have now been released. Those still in custody face a variety of charges including vandalism, assaulting a police officer, and disrupting the police in the course of their work.

Meanwhile more than 200 official complaints have been filed with the police about the arrests on Sunday and Saturday. Marc Jorgensen, working with a legal support group for activists, said that the complaints were focussed on the arbitrary nature of the arrests, and on the conditions in which detainees were held.

He said there is particular concern about an incident on Sunday night when, in response to a disturbance cause by some of the detainees, the police allegedly used pepper spray on the detainees in the cages. "People were really shocked," said Jorgensen. He added that every cage had reportedly been sprayed, even though many detainees had not been involved in the disturbance.

Claus Juul, lawyer with Amnesty International Denmark, said: "Over the last few years the government have handed the police more and more powers, they've been like kids in a candy shop. These situations are exactly what we have feared as a result." The director of the Danish Institute of Human Rights, Dr. LL.M. Jonas Christoffersen, added: "It is a problem for our democracy if people's right to assemble and express themselves freely in this way come under pressure."

A press spokesman for the Danish police said: "We have received some complaints after the weekend and we have been dealing with those. There were complaints about the amount of time that people were sitting on the ground, so we have brought in mats for them to sit on. We have not yet had any official complaints about the use of pepper spray in the detention centre."