Police brace for more protest action against Tesla plant in Germany

International |  IANS  | Published :

Berlin, May 11 (IANS/DPA) Berlin police are preparing for further protests on Saturday at the Tesla factory site in Grunheide in Germany after violent clashes.

Friday's actions will be taken into account in operational planning, said a police spokesman. The activists have planned fresh actions over the weekend.

Initially, a protest march from Fangschleuse station to the Tesla plant is planned for around midday on Saturday. Further actions by the demonstrators around the Tesla plant are to be expected.

On Friday, there were repeated clashes between protesters and police officers. The police used pepper spray and batons. According to the police, several participants in the protests and 21 police officers were injured, while 16 people had been taken into custody.

A spokeswoman and a spokesman for various protest groups involved criticised the "disproportionately brutal" actions of the police.

A large contingent of police was deployed, including hundreds of reinforcements brought in from other federal states. Water cannons and an armoured personnel carrier were also deployed but were not used at first.

During a demonstration on Friday, several activists attempted to enter the Tesla factory premises. They scaled a fence in the forest on the edge of the factory site. According to the police, they were prevented from entering the factory premises.

At an airfield in Neuhardenberg, demonstrators made it onto the site, set off pyrotechnics and damaged Tesla vehicles with paint. According to a spokesman the police had also tried to protect this area. However, the sheer size of the airfield had made this difficult.

The starting point of the protests was the protest camp set up near the car plant in Grünheide. Activists have been staying there in tree houses since the end of February to protest against the planned expansion of the Tesla site and the clearing of the forest.

The police want the tree houses to be dismantled. A legal dispute is ongoing. Tesla opponents have been calling for days of action against the car manufacturer since Wednesday.

"The fight against this car factory is a fight against every car factory," said the Disrupt group involved on Friday.

"In order for the earth to remain our home in the long term, we should be brave enough to creatively redesign this factory. Whether we build buses, ambulances or cargo bikes here is something we have to decide together."

The police had attempted to cordon off the site of the only Tesla plant in Europe, and several motorway exits were closed. The railway line between Berlin and Frankfurt was also temporarily closed at Fangschleuse station.

There was also a sit-in blockade on country road 23 near the plant on the fringes of the demonstration marches to the site. In Berlin, activists held a banner with the slogan "Clean cars are a dirty lie" in front of the Mall of Berlin shopping centre where a Tesla showroom is located.

"There is nothing wrong with peaceful protest, and citizens must be able to express their opinions," said Brandenburg's Minister of Economic Affairs, Jorg Steinbach, explaining the events in Grunheide on Friday.

"This is a central component of our democracy," he said in response to an enquiry.

Tesla did not initially comment on the course of the protests. There was no production at the plant on Friday. However, a company spokeswoman emphasised that this had to do with the bridge day after Ascension Day, a public holiday, and not with the demonstrations.

The US car manufacturer had to stop production at its 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. In addition, parked Teslas had repeatedly gone up in flames at various locations.

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