Danish riots flare for a second night: Danish 'no' campaigners cry foul at 'crisis of legitimacy'

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The Independent Online
DANISH police fired tear-gas last night at protesters demonstrating for a second night after Danes voted to accept the European Community's Maastricht treaty. About 100 protesters lit fires in the streets and broke windows in a working-class suburb of central Copenhagen.

On Tuesday night, police shot and wounded 11 squatters in the same Noerrebro area of Copenhagen in the most violent rioting in Denmark's modern history. In Tuesday's clashes, 26 police officers were injured, mostly by demonstrators throwing stones.

The Danish news agency Ritzau said police sealed off some streets in the suburb for a second night in a row.

The Danske Bank in Copenhagen Noerrebro was closed yesterday while workmen repaired shattered windows after Tuesday's violence. Hundreds had taken to the streets after Danish television announced the country had said 'yes' to the Maastricht treaty.

One policeman was still in a coma yesterday, and 25 others, as well as at least 11 demonstrators, were wounded after police, hopelessly outnumbered, resorted to pistols firing live ammunition when tear-gas failed.

What began in good humour quickly deteriorated. Riot police were blocked by barricades declaring the area - usually a laid-back mix of students, immigrants, new- and old-fashioned hippies - 'an EC-free zone'.

The rioting took the edge of what should have been a joyous celebration for the Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. He said the riot was not linked to a 'no' vote, but 'planned and organised in a way that suggests outside help'.

The June Movement, a coalition of anti-Maastricht factions, warned that the violent protest was born of frustration. 'Something is still rotten in the state of Denmark and the EC - namely a crisis of legitimacy,' said Drude Dahlerup, a spokeswoman. Though the Maastricht vote was carried by 56.8 per cent of the electorate, 43.2 per cent still voted no - 'a clear indication of the deep split between parliament and the people', she said.

Mr Rasmussen acknowledged that split, a difference of 460,811 votes, saying: 'There is a growing problem: the gap between the electorate and political leaders on international issues. To close that gap is the job for tomorrow.'

As statisticians set to work analysing Tuesday's result, it was clear the Social Democrats' (SD) quiet campaign, based on the fact that the Danish opt-outs had changed the nature of the Maastricht treaty, had worked.

This was the key to a turnaround. A third of all voters are SD supporters and a majority last June defied the party line to vote 'no'. On Tuesday at least 20 per cent changed their minds on the basis of the Edinburgh accord, according to early analyses run by the Gallup Institute. Women, too, converted to a 'yes' in significant numbers, but the trend was less clear.

(Photograph omitted)