Eight hundred protesters attempt to storm German Tesla factory

Hundreds of protesters opposed to the expansion of a Tesla plant in Grünheide, near Berlin, clashed with police on Friday as some of them attempted to storm the electric vehicle manufacturing facility.

About 800 people took part in the protest, according to the organizing group Disrupt Tesla, which claims the expansion would damage the environment. Tesla has attracted intense backlash since the company opened the factory in March 2022, and later announced plans to expand into a nearby forest to increase its production capability.

In February, the town where the factory is located voted against the plans in a referendum that was not legally binding. Since then, protesters have been stationed in an encampment nearby in protest. The same facility was shut down for a week in March after suspected arson disabled its power. A separate protest collective called Volcano Group claimed responsibility for the fire, calling for the “complete destruction of the gigafactory”.

Video of Friday’s action showed dozens of people wearing blue caps and masks coming from a nearby wooded area and attempting to storm the company’s premises with police officers trying to prevent them, including by force. At least one protester was detained.

“Why do the police let the leftwing protestors off so easily?” the Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, wrote on his social medial platform X, adding that the demonstrators did not manage to break through. Tesla, which dissolved its press department in 2020, did not respond to request for comment.

The group also wants to highlight environmental destruction in countries such as Argentina or Bolivia brought about by lithium mining, according to a Disrupt Tesla spokesperson, Ole Becker. Lithium is a key resource for electric vehicle batteries.

“We are here today to draw attention to the Tesla factory in Grünheide for the environmental destruction here,” Becker told Reuters.

The police confirmed that the protesters tried to enter the plant’s premises, but were stopped, with several people taken into custody, and that it received a few reports of injuries.

“We protect the freedom of assembly,” said a Brandenburg police spokesperson, Mario Heinemann, “but we are also responsible for public order and safety. That means we will also intervene when necessary.”

Some of the demonstrators damaged a few Tesla cars using pyrotechnics and paint at a nearby car storage site, the police spokesperson added.

Tesla earlier this week said it would shut the factory for one day on Friday, without specifying a reason.

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