Activists Attempt to Storm Tesla Gigafactory in Germany

Grünheide, Germany — Over a thousand environmental protesters broke through lines of polizei and reached the outside of Tesla’s only European factory on May 10 in an action opposing Tesla’s extreme water usage and planned expansion in the area.

The protest was organized by a coalition of various anti-capitalist organizations operating under the name “Disrupt.” It was a part of five-days of organized actions demanding an immediate halt to the planned expansion of Tesla’s Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory.

At least 1,500 police were called from regions around Germany to counter the demonstrators. Confrontations between protesters and police occurred as the former attempted to breach the perimeter fence around the factory. Though they managed to penetrate the initial police line, the environmentalists were eventually forced back by mass amounts of pepper spray and police batons.

Background to Opposition Against ‘Gigafactory 4’

Tesla Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg, also known as “Gigafactory 4,” currently produces some 375,000 vehicles a year (photo source: Wikipedia)

In February 2024, residents in the nearby town of Grünheide decisively voted to reject the planned expansion of the factory in a nonbinding vote that has so far been ignored by Tesla. Following that, residents and environmentalists began an occupation of the forest.

In late March, early April 2024, Unicorn Riot visited the “Teslastoppen” (Stop Tesla) forest occupation, where, at the time, around a dozen treehouses and platforms were suspended with ropes between trees, several meters up in the air. In the entrance of the camp, one of the banners revealed a reason behind the protest — “Water is a human right.”

Even before the factory officially opened in March 2022, Tesla faced stiff opposition from local and international environmental groups who raised alarm bells about the factory’s inevitable negative impacts on the local environment. The large amounts of water required to manufacture Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries is of particular concern — especially considering the ever increasing prevalence of seasonal droughts in the area. The destruction of land that is close to a federally protected nature reserve will also likely have negative impacts on the various species which call it home — some of which are endangered.

In the two years since the factory opened, there have also been a high number of reported accidents, violations of occupational safety and environmental regulations at the factory. Many of these reports come from the workers there, who say they face hazardous work conditions and are being overworked in order to keep up with Tesla’s high production quotas.

On March 5, an organization calling itself the “Volcano Group” claimed an act of sabotage, which resulted in the Tesla factory’s operations being shut down for a limited time.

‘Teslastoppen’ Elon Musk’s Water War in the Heart of Europe – April 24, 2024

Current Situation

Though Tesla has yet to make a direct statement on the protests, CEO Elon Musk has been very vocal on social media, appearing to imply that the protests are part of a larger orchestrated conspiracy against Tesla, stating on X, formerly Twitter: “Something super weird is going on, as Tesla was the only car company attacked” and “Why do the police let the left-wing protestors off so easily?”

Demonstrations the day after the direct action were a much calmer affair with a number of more liberal groups who marched around the factory, again demanding it cancel the planned expansion. There were no major incidents reported Saturday, though police did confiscate a number of flags from protesters.

German police report that there were 18 gatherings between May 8 and May 12 and police detained 23 protesters and have filed a total of 76 criminal charges against them. Those charges include but are not limited to: resisting arrest, disturbing the peace and property damage. There were also a number of severe injuries sustained by protesters from police pepper spray and batons.

After a police raid on Sunday, the Teslastoppen camp near the factory was disassembled.

Organizers from Disrupt say they plan to attend a local board meeting where the factory expansion plans will be discussed next Thursday. If the recent public vote against the factory expansion is disregarded then they say they will be back.

See our full report ‘Teslastoppen’ Elon Musk’s Water War in the Heart of Europe for more context.

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