10 May 2024, 15:57
Benjamin Wehrmann

Protest camp at Tesla’s Berlin factory draws in hundreds of activists critical of expansion plans

rbb / Die Welt

Activists protesting against the expansion of the Tesla factory in Grünheide have tried to enter the factory's premises, leading to clashes with police and arrests made on the US electric vehicle manufacturer's production site near Berlin, public broadcaster rbb reported. Police on Friday afternoon told rbb that the situation had calmed down after the attempt to enter the grounds, which "some" of the hundreds of protesters present at the factory had made after what started out as a largely peaceful protest camp, the broadcaster said. The protests' initiators had said they acted in response to a local referendum in which residents earlier this year had rejected the plant’s expansion over concerns regarding the impact on the region’s groundwater reserves. Protests intensified this week, when a new camp for participants was set up in the woodland surrounding the Tesla “gigafactory” on the outskirts of the German capital in the state of Brandenburg. After a bank holiday on Thursday, the carmaker halted production on Friday also. However, a spokesperson of the company told rbb that the production pause had been planned for months and was not connected to the protests.

An arson attack on the power grid that disrupted production at the factory in March already before the storming attempt had led to worries that some protesters could resort to violence. According to newspaper Die Welt, a small group of protesters had also demonstrated in front of Brandenburg’s government building in Potsdam. Protest groups called for a transport transition policy that does not only cater to electric car manufacturers, but strengthens public transport, calling the US carmaker a symbol of “automotive capitalism with a green veil.”

Tesla’s gigafactory near Berlin, the company’s first European factory which opened in 2022, was hailed by local and national policymakers as a breakthrough for the region’s economic prospects and the development of electric vehicles in Germany. However, many local residents have been critical of the project due to its water consumption and the need to cut down several hectares of forest. Due to a slump in EV sales, Tesla recently announced global cuts to its workforce, which will also affect hundreds of jobs at the Grünheide factory.

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