February 24, 2008 / 7:01 PM / 11 years ago

Violence erupts at Kosovo protest in Vienna

Riot police arrest a protester during a demonstration against Kosovo's declaration of independence in Vienna February 24, 2008. REUTERS/Herbert Neubauer

VIENNA (Reuters) - Four people were arrested and two policemen were injured on Sunday when a protest in the Austrian capital against the secession of Kosovo turned violent, police said.

The protest began when some 6,000 demonstrators gathered on Vienna’s historic Heldenplatz in the city centre, police said. Local media showed protesters waving Serbian flags, chanting “Serbia, Serbia” and burning a U.S. flag. Organisers put the turnout at 10,000.

About 600 people then split off from the main protest and began marching towards the U.S. embassy. Violence broke out when they realised the area was sealed of by police and they vented their anger at nearby restaurants and shops, Vienna police spokesman Manfred Simettinger said.

“They threw bottles, stones and cans, and smashed a number of shop and restaurant windows,” Simettinger told Reuters. “Police had to use pepper spray on some occasions.”

Protesters also burnt and urinated on an Albanian flag, a Reuters witness said.

Kosovo, mainly populated by ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia a week ago.

Austrian authorities estimate that some 300,000 people of Serbian descent live in Austria, which has a total population of around 8 million.

Reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Caroline Drees

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