Some 500 students demonstrated against the disposal of reprocessed nuclear waste at a temporary storage site in northwest Germany. Trucks carrying the waste left France and are to travel around 1,000 kilometres over the weekend to the storage facility near the town of Gorleben.
The protests turned violent after some of the demonstrators — their faces covered with scarves — hurled bottles and firecrackers at the police and set alight police barricades and bales of hay. They also reportedly smashed the windows of a police car and punctured its tyres. The incident took place in the town of Wendland in Lower Saxony. A female officer was slightly injured in the scuffle, police said.
The protest was among the first of a number expected through the weekend. The next big demonstration is planned in Gorleben on Saturday. Anti-nuclear activists have also threatened to block rail tracks.
A police spokesman however said they didn’t expect the violence to continue through the weekend. “We’re assuming that most of the local demonstrations will take place peacefully,” the spokesman said.
Spent fuel from Germany’s nuclear plants is routinely sent to France and Britain for reprocessing and then returned in an annual shipment to the temporary storage facility in Gorleben. The town has been a traditional focus of anti-nuclear protests. There have several clashes in the past between police and demonstrators.
Claudia Roth, head of Germany’s Green Party, urged police to refrain from a heavy-handed response to the demonstrations, warning that the tactic had led to an escalation of violence in the past.