Nuclear protesters bow to the inevitable Last stand against nuclear waste ends in battle Head for the Germans head to heady

Four youths dangling from trees held up 30,000 German troops and policemen in Robocop body armour for several hours yesterday, before ultimately succumbing. The Battle of Gorleben ended in triumph for the state when six lorries towing the 100-tonne nuclear containers reached the security of the medium term waste disposal site yesterday afternoon.

It was a Pyrrhic victory, in which 150 demonstrators were injured, the region's famed heath was enveloped in the acrid fume of burning tyres, and the authorities bickered about who should pick up the 100 million Deutschmark bill. The government of Lower Saxony hinted this might have been the last trip to its cursed nuclear cemetery.

The operation began at 5am sharp. At Dannenberg station, where the containers had been loaded on to reinforced trailers, the water cannons opened fire, dousing some 4,000 demonstrators sitting on the road. Then armoured bulldozers charged into the crowd. Five policemen were injured in the ensuing scuffles.

The demonstrators retreated.It was still early morning, and the road to Gorleben seemed to be wide open. But protesters were about to fight back.

In the dead of night, the two oak trees at the entrance of the road had been turned into a victory arch, linked by a huge banner and a web of mountaineering ropes. Along them four environmentalists were sliding to and fro, clutching the ropes with one hand and their mobile phones with the other.

That was at 9am, but the troops had come prepared for any confrontation. They had APCs, water cannons, a fleet of helicopters. What they lacked was a long ladder.

Reinforcements were sent for. Eight helicopter gun ships flew past in formation, crack troops marched below, followed by military hardware.

When that did not work, the state called in its nuclear weapon. The first of the deadly trucks pulled up. Five policemen climbed on top of the huge casket, one grabbing the lowest tree dweller by her feet. The others severed her support with long wire cutters. And so they were plucked out, one by one.

By 3pm the convoy was behind the electric fences of Gorleben, where the caskets will be buried in a disused salt mine. What happens then to the radioactive end-product, nobody knows.

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