Police forcibly removed around 100 people from a makeshift Roma camp in the Swedish city of Malmo on Tuesday, ending a months-long standoff over the site that has fueled tensions over immigration.
Dozens of police arrived at around 5:00am to clear residents who had ignored a weekend deadline to leave the camp, after authorities declared it unsanitary and a public health hazard in a court order last week.
About 200 people have lived in the camp, which is located on private land and considered illegal, for months. After last week's court order, the population dwindled to about 100 remaining people.
"They surrounded us, began dragging away people, dragged them through the gravel," a protester called Samuel told the Swedish TT national news agency.
Others protested against the clearance outside Malmo's city hall.
Activists joined some of the remaining inhabitants of the camp to fight off police attempts to enter the gates and clear away the cluster of caravans, huts made of plywood, and trash strewn in the lot.
"We activists - of all ages who have come from different places - are standing here and we want to show our solidarity, we want to show that it's not okay," said activist Toktam Jahangiry. "In 2015 we have gone back in history and it's not okay. They have no other place to go."
Europe's 6 million Roma are the continent's biggest ethnic minority and have a history of persecution. Most Roma are from Romania and Bulgaria and are allowed to travel freely to Sweden as European Union citizens.
But a recent increase in arrivals has alarmed city authorities, and triggered criticism from a growing political far right who say the country is a soft on migrants. Arsonists have attacked a number of asylum centers in Sweden in recent months.
"One cannot just settle anywhere in Sweden," Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told TT.
Sweden is also preparing to take in about 190,000 refugees Syria, Iraq, and other war zones — part of a surge in arrivals straining resources across the continent. Sweden takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other nation in Europe.