Activists march on German Tesla factory in peaceful demo

Berlin: More than 1,000 environmental activists participated in a protest march against the Tesla electric car factory outside Berlin on Saturday, according to the police, following clashes and arrests the previous day.

The demonstrators headed from a nearby railway station to US tech billionaire Elon Musk’s only European Tesla production site, in Grunheide. Several organisations had drummed up supporters for the event, aimed at warning of environmental dangers but also criticising other car manufacturers.

Some protesters chanted “Down with the shares, up with water protection.” The mood was tense, following Friday’s clashes between police and demonstrators.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Tesla, VW or Mercedes: Car companies and their political supporters are responsible for selling out our lifeblood,” the spokeswoman for the Disrupt Tesla group, Lucia Mende, said ahead of a planned demonstration. “We must prevent this and we will prevent it,” she added.

A citizens’ initiative in Grunheide accused the US e-car company and the Brandenburg state government of not paying enough attention to the interests of the people in the region.

“They are going through with it, they are not listening to the sensitivities of the local people,” said spokesman Steffen Schorcht. “It only serves the interests of Tesla.”

He showed understanding for the protests. “If you’re fighting and keep hitting a wall and don’t know what else to do, then sometimes the only thing left is civil disobedience.”

Another alliance is centred on concerns about the water supply.

“Tesla’s luxury cars pollute and consume scarce drinking water worldwide,” said spokeswoman Karolina Drzewo. She criticised the fact that a planned expansion of the plant was due to go ahead, although the majority of citizens had voted against it in a survey in Grunheide.

The alliance is calling for a move away from “inefficient and climate-damaging individual transport.”

Musk responded to the criticism late on Friday, posting on his platform X: “Something super weird is going on, as Tesla was the *only* car company attacked!”

Tesla has been producing electric cars in Grunheide since 2022. The company has always rejected the environmental accusations, claiming that water consumption has fallen and is below the industry average.

Local police were braced for Saturday’s protest action. “We are sensitized,” said a police spokesman. A local motorway junction was sealed off and drivers were advised to avoid the area.

The situation had been calm during the night and in the morning, the spokesman added.

On Friday, there were repeated clashes between protesters and police officers as activists tried to enter the site. The police used pepper spray and batons. According to the police, several participants in the protests and 21 police officers were injured. Sixteen people were taken into custody.

No production took place at the plant on Friday. However, a company spokeswoman said this was because employees had been granted a day off following a public holiday on Thursday.

The Grunheide protests began on Wednesday and are set to continue until Sunday. They are directed against Tesla’s planned expansion, which is to include a freight depot and would require forest to be cleared, as well as criticizing the production of electric cars in general.

Following the public consultation in Grünheide, in which a majority voted against the expansion, the municipality and Tesla signalled that less forest should be cleared.

Activists have set up a protest camp near the car plant, occupying tree houses there since late February. The US carmaker had to stop production at the Grunheide factory for a few days in March after an arson attack on an electricity pylon. A left-wing extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

IANS

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