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World News - updated 12:54 PM ET Oct 31
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Tuesday October 31 11:43 AM ET
Amsterdam Police Battle Squatters Amsterdam Police Battle Squatters

By JEROME SOCOLOVSKY, Associated Press Writer

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - Riot police fired tear gas at stone-throwing squatters and broke through blazing barricades Tuesday to close down six squatter compounds around the capital.

Thirteen officers were injured by bricks and sharp metal objects in the confrontation with around 100 squatters at a dock complex behind the Amsterdam Zoo, said police spokesman Klaas Wilting.

Three squatters were arrested in the melee with 250 riot police who wielded truncheons and carried bulletproof shields. Another 15 were arrested throughout the day in raids at five more sites around the city, police said.

Robbert Slagman, a Dutch free-lance photographer living next to the dock complex, said squatters set huge bonfires and surrounded themselves with flaming mountains of construction materials, rubble and fences.

``It took police two hours to advance from one blazing barricade to the next,'' he said.

The confrontation began before dawn and continued into the morning rush hour near the capital's business center before the squatters dispersed after a 61/2 hour standoff.

Police were enforcing a court eviction order for three 17th-century warehouses in Amsterdam's old port district on the bank of the Ij river.

The buildings were slated to be renovated as luxury riverside loft apartments following their 1996 sale by the city to a private developer. But squatters insisted they be preserved as cultural landmarks and filled the structure with art galleries and a theater.

Housing shortages generally lead authorities to show leniency toward the illegal occupation of disused public buildings.

But Amsterdam city spokeswoman Mechtild Rietveld said the developer had promised to preserve the historic character of the buildings in the renovation.

``We let them stay until now,'' she said. ``But we had informed them every year that this year would be the end of the occupation.''

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