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Protesters clash with police at 'alternate' climate summit

world Updated: Dec 15, 2009 15:48 IST

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An "alternate" climate summit organised by the well-known once-hippie community of Christiania here ran into trouble early on Tuesday when activists clashed with police, leading to 210 arrests. Police used dogs, batons, teargas, flash bombs and water cannons to disperse the activists.

The clash occurred at an overnight debate organised by the NGO Climate Justice Action. The organisers claimed that around midnight, police surrounded a bar where the debate was taking place, and set off teargas canisters all around.

Some of the speakers had been sharply critical of the Dec 7-18 UN climate summit going on here. Many NGOs have been attending the 'alternate' summit instead, saying people had to tackle climate change on their own because governments were not going to.

Police said five of those arrested were still in custody and had been charged with attacking policemen. Police official added that the authorities intervened when protesters set fire to barricades in front of Christiania, for long a self-proclaimed free zone in the city. Police also claimed to have seized several Molotov cocktails and fireworks during a search.

Denmark introduced special legislation prior to the UN summit allowing police to hold suspects without charge for up to 12 hours.

Long-time Christiania resident Oskar Dresling, who was listening to the debate, said: "There was no reason for this attack. They think that by attacking us while we party, we'll be afraid to come out on the streets this week.

"But we will not be deterred so easily. Climate change is too important an issue to be left to governments that terrorise their own people like this."

The entire Christiania area was cordoned off for over an hour. Richard Bernard of Climate Justice Action said the arrested activists had been forced to squat on the street in the cold.

There had been a clash between police and activists last Saturday as well, leading to over 1,200 arrests, though only nine people had been charged and remained in custody Tuesday.

Christiania is a former army base, which since the 1970s has been a haven for the alternative movement in the Danish capital.