Opposition announces new anti-govt rally after Saturday's protest ends in tension

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 12, 2019 20:49

Opposition announces new anti-govt rally after Saturday's protest ends in tension

Story Highlights

  • It was reported on Saturday that dozens of protest participants were escorted by the police for acts of violence, which also affected some operatives and journalists. Meanwhile, according to the interior ministry at least 13 police officers were injured.

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TIRANA, May 12 - Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha called shortly after midnight on Saturday an urgent meeting between his party's governing structures and other allied parties, after nearly five lengthy hours of national protest, accompanied by tensions, acts of violence and clashes with the police, initially before the government building, then in front of the parliament and finally in front of the Tirana Police Directorate.

At the end of the meeting, he announced the decision to hold another protest on Monday afternoon, "in decided response to the violence of Edi Rama's criminal regime and unwavering in our stance to remove the criminal government."

It was reported on Saturday that dozens of protest participants were escorted by the police for acts of violence, which also affected some operatives and journalists.

Meanwhile, according to the interior ministry at least 13 police officers were injured.

On Sunday evening, hundreds of opposition supporters gathered again in front of the police directorate to demand the release of those detained after Saturday's protest.

Nearly 50 people were arrested and 40 others were detained, local media unofficially reported, alleging acts of violence towards institutions and law enforcement operatives during Saturday's protest. However, police has not yet given an official figure for arrests and bans.

Opposition party leaders participated in the rally in front of the police directorate, demanding the release of the arrested.


Clashes in front of the Tirana Police Directorate

The tension between protesters and police forces escalated for the third time before the Police Directorate, in the direction of which opposition leaders departed around 22.20 pm.

A few hours before, the DP's organization secretary Sait Dollapi was taken there, after being detained by police in front of the parliament building.

Dollapi was recorded standing there with a gas-protection mask and making a verbal exchange with a police worker who seemed to order him to leave, and then asked his colleagues to stop him. Dollapi was then recorded running from the police, falling down as he was leaving and being surrounded by Rapid Intervention agents, who bit him with rubber sticks before detaining him. He was down as he was leaving.

From the DP headquarters, Basha said that Dollapi was "barbarously violated" and sought his immediate release.

The arrival of the opposition supporters in front of the Police Directorate was again accompanied by tensions. Demonstrators throwing smoke bombs and stones brought about the police responding with teargas, while several trash bins were set on fire until the Rapid Intervention Unit intervened with water pumps, keeping the demonstrators away.

President Ilir Meta reacted to the situation, according to whom it is absurd.

"Sahit Dollapi should be escorted to the hospital to receive first aid for his injuries and not be held in the police," Meta said.

Earlier, the country's Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed on Twitter "respect for State Police troops who with their professionalism honored the state uniform in the face of a crowd led by the desperate politics of the blind. Quick recovery for injured police officers and punishment for their violators and for arsonists of institutions, "concludes Mr. Rama's post.

The presence of the OSCE in Tirana, which previously condemned acts of violence, came up with a second reaction after the developments at the Police Directorate, where Mr Dollapi was being held.

"We repeat our unwavering stance that violence is not the answer. Also, the severe reaction to violence does not help," the announcement read.

Near midnight Dollapi was taken to receive medical help at the hospital, accompanied by police officers.


Clashes in front of the parliament

Tension only came growing during the opposition protest, which started at the boulevard in front of the government building and got transferred in front of the parliament at around nine pm.

As soon as they arrived there, opposition supporters threw a big number of Molotov bombs towards the main entrance, which was covered in the flames. Police intervened with water pumps to extinguish the fire, and then tear gas to disperse the protesters.

For about 45 minutes, protesters approached by throwing Molotov bombs, while police responded by throwing water and tear gas.

The Rapid Intervention Units then advanced escorted by the water vehicles, clearing the area.

The US Embassy reacted to the state of affairs by condemning "the violence present during today's protest. The declared objective of the opposition to make Albania's democracy stronger goes against the violence that is being exerted by protesters. Violence is fundamentally undemocratic and should stop. Protesters have the responsibility to promote calm. We call upon all sides to show restraint."


Clashes in front of the Prime Minister's Office

In fact Saturday's protest, the 12th in a row since February 16, when the DP, the Socialist Movement for Integration and right-wing allies walked out of parliament abandoning their MP mandates, started off with tension.

Smoke bombs and ink bags were thrown toward the Prime Minister's Office from the very first moments. They were followed by many Molotov bombs, which were not just thrown towards the central entrance of the Prime Minister's Office, but also towards the building opposite it.

The entire area around the Prime Minister's building was surrounded by a metal fence, as well as the side streets leading to it.

A group of demonstrators managed to pull the police fence in front of the main entrance, while continuing to throw Molotov bombs.

The police addressed them with successive calls to leave and then used tear gas. Basha, who was at that time holding a speech, stopped for a few minutes until the situation calmed down temporarily.

Meanwhile, through a video projector, the opposition covered the facade of the Prime Minister's Office with the protest's main slogans, "Rama go," "the Government of Crime" and other slogans against the Socialist government.

Interior Minister Sandà«r Lleshaj reacted through a status on Twitter shortly after the tension came increasing.

"Molotov does not build democracy, but aims to destroy Albania. But that is impossible! I urge the responsible citizens to distance themselves from the attack on the institutions. Nobody can burn Albania again!" Lleshaj wrote.

The opposition calls for Rama's resignation and the establishment of a transitional government to guarantee the organization of free and fair elections.

It has also decided to boycott the local elections of June 30, threatening not to allow them to be held. Even during his speech on Saturday, Basha stressed that "there will be no election with the crime, and with Edi Rama. There will be no elections on June 30," said Basha, adding that it is "a battle for life and death."

For its part, the majority has repeated that "local elections will take place on the appointed date and on June 30, citizens will elect their mayors."


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 12, 2019 20:49