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Convoy arrives in German town after blockade slows progress

From Diana Magnay, CNN
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German police carry nuke protesters away
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Trucks carrying nuclear waste have arrived in Gorleben, protest organizers say
  • Thousands sat on a train track and road to block the nuclear waste shipment
  • Germany said in September it would extend the life of nuclear plants
RELATED TOPICS
  • Germany
  • Angela Merkel

Gorleben, Germany (CNN) -- A convoy of trucks carrying a nuclear waste shipment arrived Tuesday in the German town of Gorleben after being repeatedly blocked by demonstrators for the past four days, organizers of the protest said.

Earlier, German police carried away from a road some of the 4,000 demonstrators who were attempting to block the convoy.

As they were hauled off to the side of the road by two officers each, protesters shouted, "Abschalten," or "Turn them off," referring to the nuclear power stations.

Demonstrators are angry about the storing of nuclear waste in Germany as well as an extension on the life of the country's nuclear plants.

"The removal of the blockade shows that there is a political conflict about nuclear energy, which the majority of the population does not want and which the German government now tries to solve with police force. This is bound to fail," said Julian Bank of the anti-nuclear campaign group X-tausendmalquer.

Bank described the early moments of the clearing as "pure theater," as people simply rejoined the protest farther down the road after they were carried off.

In some areas, the protests have turned violent over the past few days. But the atmosphere was peaceful Tuesday morning with a massive police presence. Several hundred officers were preparing to deploy.

The blockade has been manned, with varying numbers of participants, for at least 40 hours.

A train carrying the nuclear waste left France Friday bound for Gorleben, in north-central Germany about 209 kilometers (130 miles) northwest of Berlin.

It's the 11th such transport in the past three decades, but the shipment has provoked outrage in Germany after the government announced in September it would extend the life of the nation's 17 nuclear power plants by 12 years. They were due to be decommissioned in 2020.

On Monday, about 3,500 protesters blocked the track when the train was on its way from Dahlenberg and Dannenberg.

After completing the trip to Dannenberg by rail, the shipment was unloaded onto 11 trucks destined for a storage site at Gorleben. According to X-tausendmalquer, the shipment left Dannenberg for Gorleben on Tuesday morning.

Over the weekend, protesters attacked police with sticks and pepper spray along various stretches of the route in the Wendland area, and the authorities responded in kind, according to Nicole Ramrath, spokeswoman for the Lueneburg police. In Harlingen, officers on horseback were brought in to control the crowds, and water cannons were used against the protesters in various areas. Demonstrators set a police vehicle on fire, Ramrath said.

Ramrath had no information on how many people were arrested, and would not say how many police were brought into the area.

On Friday, protesters blocked the train in northwestern France, chaining themselves to the tracks on which it was traveling, authorities said. Four French protesters and one German halted the shipment near a train station in Caen. The train stopped well before the site where the protesters were chained, and the demonstrators were removed by police, authorities said.

In making the announcement in September that the use of German nuclear plants would be extended, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the change was part of a "revolutionary" new energy policy which will lead toward an era of renewable power.

 
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