Police prevent environmental activists from storming Tesla factory in Germany

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German police said Friday they had prevented hundreds of demonstrators from storming Tesla's factory near Berlin during protests against the pioneering electric carmaker over its environmental footprint.

Crowds of demonstrators gathered near the Grunheide factory, Tesla's only European production base, on Friday carrying banners complaining about water consumption at the plant and advocating for public transport over private cars.

Activists have been protesting in a forest near the plant since February over concerns about water and plans to cut trees to make way for an expansion of the plant, which opened in early 2022. In March, a suspected arson attack on an electricity pylon claimed by a far-left group knocked out power supplies to the factory for nearly a week, interrupting production.

FILE - A Tesla sign is seen at a dealership, Dec. 3, 2023, in Buena Park, Calif.
FILE - A Tesla sign is seen at a dealership, Dec. 3, 2023, in Buena Park, Calif.
AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File

Company CEO Elon Musk at the time called the culprits the "dumbest eco-terrorists on Earth" and said anti-Tesla protesters were misguided for aiming to halt production of electric vehicles rather than those powered by fossil fuels.

During Friday's protest march at a nearby train station, "hundreds of participants ran into the forest and tried to get onto the Tesla site," police spokesman Mario Heinemann said on ntv television. "We prevented that with our forces."

Social media footage showed black-clad protestors, many wearing medical masks, running over rough ground toward the factory boundary, and riot police using pepper spray in an attempt to turn them back.

Police said demonstrators also blocked a nearby highway and a railway line, and set off fireworks at an airfield where Tesla stores new cars.

Police detained several people temporarily, German news service dpa reported.

"Companies like Tesla are happy to destroy habitats for their own profit," said Ole Becker, a spokesman for "Disrupt Tesla," a group that helped organize the protest. "Instead of SUVs for the few, we must build buses and trains for the many."