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Police remove Stuttgart rail protesters from trees

Police remove Stuttgart rail protesters from trees
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German police intervened in large numbers overnight to remove opponents of the controversial rail project Stuttgart 21 from a public park.

A few dozen demonstrators had been camping out in trees due to be cut down to make way for building work.

The planned railway will run under the Palace Garden and through the city centre, as part of a huge programme to turn Stuttgart into a major European transport hub linking Paris to Budapest.

“We kept the opposition going here for a long time. We will accompany our trees until the bitter end, if necessary,” said one protester.

More than 2,000 police officers were on duty. Rally organisers said some 4,000 demonstrators had gathered.

The rail scheme has divided the local population. Last year, a majority voted in favour of the work continuing in a regional referendum.

Police say that apart from minor interruptions the operation to clear the demonstrators was over by dawn.

“Yes, it’s relatively emotional here. People expressed their anger and, at the beginning, there were some acts of resistance when the first policemen entered the park. But this was only at the beginning for a short time. Besides that it was calm,” said police spokesman Peter Widenhorn at the scene.

Morning came and workers began removing the trees. Around 170 will be cut down.

The park is due to remain but there are fears that land will be sold off.

At least a couple of demonstrators remained in the trees, suggesting that the opposition to this most political of environmental disputes looks set to continue.