Police have cleared a construction site of demonstrators who were trying to prevent a controversial train station project from going ahead. The move follows a referendum in which a majority voted for 'Stuttgart 21.'
Workers on Wednesday began chopping down trees in Stuttgart’s Schlossgarten park to begin making way for the construction of a controversial new train station.
More than 100 trees, some of which are 200 years old are to be cut down, while around 70 others are to be moved to a different location.
The work began shortly after police completed an operation to clear the Schlossgarten of around 1,000 demonstrators against the train station project, known as Stuttgart 21.
The German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which is responsible for the project, had said clearing the trees would be one of its top priorities, as a permit allowing it to do so expires at the end of February.
Protest camp cleared
More than 2,000 police officers were deployed in the operation to secure the construction site, which began in the early hours of Wednesday. A tent protest camp that had been set up months ago was also cleared.
Police said they had to break through makeshift barricades constructed by the protesters to reach the site. Around 50 demonstrators had to be physically carried away from the site by police officers. Some of them had climbed up trees in an effort to prevent them from being chopped down.
"The peaceful and mainly smooth nature of this operation was due to a large extent to how the opponents of this project conducted themselves," the officer in charge of the police operation, Norbert Walz said.
According to the plans for the more than 4-billion-euro ($5.3 billion) project, Stuttgart's current main train station is to be largely replaced by underground infrastructure that aims to support a high-speed rail network stretching from Paris to Budapest.
Opponents of Stuttgart 21 held a series of protests in September 2010, in which dozens of people were injured in clashes with police. The project is set to go ahead following a referendum in the state of Baden-Württemberg last November in which nearly 60 percent of those who went to the polls voted in favor of it.
pfd/slk (Reuters, dpa, DAPD)