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Germany: Protest against Tesla plans to expand 'Gigafactory'

March 10, 2024

The demonstrations just added to the automaker's headache over plans to expand its assembly plant near Berlin. It had already shut its plant for several days due to apparent sabotage.

Demonstrators hold a banner reading 'Grünheide says NO THANKS TESLA' during a protest
Protesters in Grünheide say 'no thanks' to Tesla's factory expansion plans Image: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of environmental activists protested Sunday against the expansion of electric carmaker Tesla's factory outside of Berlin.

The demonstration in Grünheide, on the outskirts of the German capital, comes only days after a suspected arson attack on the power supply halted production at the Tesla Gigafactory.

Tesla's proposal to expand the electric vehicle factory, including constructing a freight station, warehouses, and a company kindergarten, has encountered resistance from people who fear it will contaminate drinking water.  

Part of the planned area of expansion is in a water protection area.

Counter-demonstrators are seen during a protest against the expansion plan for Tesla's electric car plant in Grünheide, near Berlin, Germany on March 10, 2024
Counter-protesters showed their solidarity with Tesla Image: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP

Local residents who support the expansion and view it as an essential part of the area's future development also staged a smaller counter-demonstration.

Tesla's plant to restart next week

Meanwhile, the head of Tesla's works council told several hundred workers at the production site on Friday, "We will restart the factory next week."

An investigation was underway after activists calling themselves the Volcano Group said they sabotaged production on Tuesday.

An electricity pylon near the plant caught fire, causing power outages in the factory and nearby towns.

Arson attack shuts down Tesla's German plant

Meanwhile, Germany's Federal Network Agency, responsible for regulating energy and telecommunications infrastructure, joined calls for greater security for energy grids.

"The incident emphasizes the need for resilient energy supply structures in Germany," a spokeswoman for the Network Agency told dpa.

"The legislator is currently working on the requirements for the security of critical infrastructure, including against physical threats. The aim is to further raise the level of security," she said.

Protesters in the forest

In February, most Grünheide residents voted against the expansion plans in a nonbinding poll. To make room for the site additions, about 100 hectares of forest would have to be cleared.

Tesla had announced further talks on the issue. The facility is the only factory run by billionaire Elon Musk's electric vehicle company in Europe.

A group of environmental activists, who protested the expansion and even occupied the forest near the factory two weeks ago, have distanced themselves from the arson attack.

Police said Sunday that they were watching the forest protesters closely.

lo/mm (dpa, Reuters)

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