German police clear huge sit-in at nuke protest

AP News
Posted: Nov 27, 2011 9:08 AM
German police clear huge sit-in at nuke protest

German police cleared a sit-in of thousands of protesters attempting to block a shipment of nuclear waste and detained 1,300 people Sunday, officials said.

Hundreds of officers started evicting protesters from the rail lines near Dannenberg in the north of the country early Sunday, police spokesman Stefan Kuehm-Stoltz said. Those who refused to leave were detained and are being brought before judges. It was not clear how many were still being held.

Police put the number of protesters at 3,500 while protest organizers said 5,000 people had occupied the tracks that will be used to transport a nuclear waste shipment reprocessed in France and now on its way to a storage site near the northern town of Gorleben.

Activists say the waste containers, and the temporary storage facility near Gorleben, are not safe.

Police also clashed with two groups of protesters that hurled stones and fireworks at officers. Several officers were injured and at least 10 people detained, Kuehm-Stoltz said.

Activists said some 150 people were injured as police dispersed some protests with tear gas and batons over the weekend, the German news agency dapd reported.

The train carrying the shipment of 11 containers of nuclear waste reprocessed at France's La Hague facility entered western Germany on Friday after delays in France, where activists damaged railway tracks in an attempt to halt the cargo.

The shipment paused overnight south of Hamburg and is expected to reach its destination with considerable delay later Sunday or Monday. Some 20,000 German police officers are on hand to secure the cargo.

A group of four activists used a pyramid-shaped concrete structure to attach themselves to the tracks near Dannenberg, requiring a diligent dismantling operation that "certainly will take several hours," Kuehm-Stoltz said.

Some 500 people gathered around the activists on the tracks, and a sit-in of several hundred protesters also popped up near the Gorleben facility. Police estimated 400 people took part, while activists said about 1,000 had gathered there.

Nuclear energy has been unpopular in Germany since fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine drifted over the country. The annual shipment from France has been a traditional focal point for protesters.

This is the first shipment, however, since Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to speed up shutting down all of Germany's nuclear plants, with the last one scheduled to go offline by 2022, following safety questions raised after the disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan.

But Germany _ as most other nations using atomic power _ has not yet decided where nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for thousands of years, should be stored permanently.