Police in Lower Saxony spent an exhausting night clearing some 3,000 activists blocking a train full of radioactive waste travelling from France to Germany. The last demonstrator was removed around 7 am on Monday, according to the authorities.
The train proceeded around 8:20 am after the route in the Wendland region was reopened for the the journey to a storage facility in Gorleben, which protesters say is unsuitable as a nuclear waste depot.
“The unloading station is surrounded by a high fence and so we do not think there will be major disturbances,” a police spokesman said.
The 11 white containers must now be loaded onto lorries – which could take all day, reports said – for the final 20-kilometre (12-mile) stretch by road to the storage facility.
After police clashed with protestors earlier in the train’s journey on Sunday, the blockade by some 3,000 activists in the Wendland region was “absolutely peaceful,” a spokesman said, though there were reports of a few isolated clashes. Activists had either left the tracks of their own accord or were carried away by officers.
Citizens initiative x-tausendmal quer also said that the blockade had been marked by “appropriately peaceful” behaviour from police.
Authorities are currently holding some 1,500 anti-nuclear protestors, police said.
But officers are said to be exhausted after spending the night removing the activists beginning around 1:40 am.
Earlier on Sunday police turned tear gas, batons and water cannons on thousands of protestors occupying tracks near Lüneburg, while some activists lobbed fireworks, sticks and dirt clods at the officers. A police bulldozer was also reportedly set on fire.
Meanwhile Green party co-leader Claudia Roth defended the protests, telling daily Passauer Neue Presse on Monday that protestors had been provoked by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government.
“[The coalition] ripped apart a societal consensus and with that provoked the people,” Roth said, referring to the government’s recent extension to the life of the country’s nuclear power plants.
This explained the widespread participation in protests against the nuclear waste transport, Roth told the paper, calling on activists to remain peaceful.
Dubbed by activists as “the most radioactive ever” transport, the convoy that left France on Friday is the 11th of its kind. A previous nuclear waste shipment sent over in 2008 was blocked for 14 hours by protesters amid a violent standoff with police.
Around 16,000 police have been mobilised to deal with the protests in Germany.
Gorleben is a temporary storage site for the highly dangerous radioactive waste. Germany, in common with other European countries, has no permanent storage site.