Human rights groups and climate activists disrupted Volkswagen's shareholders' meeting, triggering riots at times. Representatives of one group shouted slogans and held up banners during CEO Oliver Blume's speech. One poster read: "End Uyghur forced labor at VW."

One person tried to throw a cake at Supervisory Board member Wolfgang Porsche, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Wednesday, during the Annual General Meeting. The cousin of company patriarch Ferdinand Piech, who died in 2019, is chairman of the supervisory board of the family holding company Porsche SE, which holds a majority stake in Volkswagen.

The demonstrators were led by employees of a security service from the hall in the Berlin City-Cube, where the shareholders' meeting was taking place. Supervisory Board Chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch repeatedly called on the protesters to refrain from disturbances. When he threw the cake at Porsche, he was startled at first, but then continued his introductory speech at the beginning of the Annual General Meeting, outwardly unimpressed. CEO Oliver Blume, who faced the shareholders of the Annual General Meeting, also did not respond to the demands of the demonstrators.

"Last Generation" and "Scientist Rebellion"

In a statement, the carmaker reacted angrily to the massive disruption of its annual general meeting. Peaceful protests are a democratic means of freedom of expression. The damage to other people's property and the interference with the rights of others as well as the possible endangerment of the health of those involved are in contradiction to this. At the same time, Volkswagen renewed its willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with its critics. Shareholder meetings of the Wolfsburg-based company have repeatedly been the target of protests in recent years. However, the disturbances were rarely as severe as this time.

There were also protests in front of the City-Cube. The police prevented an attempt by representatives of the group "Scientist Rebellion" to glue themselves to the square in front of the venue in Berlin's Westend. In a leaflet, the initiative accused the Wolfsburg-based company of selling "too many cars". The emission of the climate toxin CO2 by the transport sector has reached a threatening level. VW could make a positive contribution to the transport turnaround by shifting production towards trains and rail infrastructure. Representatives of the group "Last Generation", known for numerous sticking actions on roads, blocked traffic to the place of the shareholders' meeting.

Representatives of the Uyghur minority in China also protested there. The action, organized by the World Uyghur Congress, showed banners accusing the Chinese government of human rights violations. The umbrella organization of Critical Shareholders has taken up the issue and filed a motion against the discharge of the VW Board of Management. Volkswagen operates a plant in the Chinese Uyghur province of Xinjiang, from which there are allegations of crimes against humanity. The company has repeatedly stated that it is not involved in human rights violations.

Blume, who replaced Herbert Diess at the helm of the group last September, explained his strategy for the next few years to the shareholders. Because of the protests, however, the statements receded into the background. Criticism from shareholder representatives was directed, among other things, at Volkswagen's low valuation on the stock market and Blume's dual role as head of the listed sports car manufacturer Porsche AG.