Elon Musk Restarts California Tesla Factory in Defiance of Lockdown Rules, Thanks Governor Newsom For Support

Elon Musk announced that his Tesla factory in Fremont, California reopened Monday in defiance of lockdown restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Musk announced on Twitter that the factory was reopening despite a county prohibition on nonessential businesses including the electric vehicle company. The Tesla CEO said he would be working on the facility's production line and offered himself to law enforcement in place of his employees.

"Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules," Musk tweeted. "I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."

Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020

Musk also thanked California Governor Newsom and shared a video of Newsom at a Monday press briefing expressing his support for the company, saying he hoped the dispute could be settled at the "county level." The governor also said he hoped the factory and others could reopen "as early as next week" and seemed surprised when a reporter informed him it had already reopened Monday morning.

"I need the details of that. My understanding is when I walked up to the podium today that wasn't the case," Newsom said. "I'm trying to monitor hundreds of thousands of businesses all throughout the state of California."

Newsom's office declined Newsweek's request for additional information.

Thank you Governor Newsom!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020

Musk reportedly sent employees an email last Thursday informing them that production would begin the following day after Newsom announced that some manufacturing could resume. Alameda county chose to keep restrictions in place until the end of May and the Alameda County Health Department said the factory could not reopen on Friday.

"We have notified Tesla that they can only maintain Minimum Basic Operations until we have an approved plan that can be implemented in accordance with the local public health Order," the health department said in a press release after the reopening. "We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the Order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures."

In late April, Musk described the public health restrictions on nonessential businesses as "fascist" during a call with investors, demanding that lawmakers "give people back their goddamn freedom."

Moments before the Tesla CEO's announcement, Musk's brother, Kimbal Musk, who sits on Tesla's board of directors, called Newsom a "panicked socialist" in a series of tweets. Kimbal Musk also suggested the governor's treatment of Tesla has made him become a "fan" of President Donald Trump.

"I fought Trump until the very end to stop him from becoming the president. I hate the guy. But @GavinNewsom is showing me what it's like to be governed by a panicked socialist. When he grows a spine, I'll believe democrats can run America again," Kimbal Musk tweeted.

Newsweek reached out to Tesla for comment. This article will be updated with any response.

Elon Musk
Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C. on March 9, 2020. Win McNamee/Getty