TIRANA, April 14 – The opposition protest that took place on Saturday evening ended after four hours of tension between protesters and the police, with local media reporting the police used tear-gas against civilians once more.
Addressing the supporters at the headquarters of the Democratic Party, head of DP Lulzim Basha said that “you have ultimately sealed, for the opposition and for all honest Albanians, Edi Rama’s resignation as a non-negotiable condition for a transitional government that will prepare free and fair elections.”
According to Basha, the government “once again invaded the mothers and sisters, the children and the youth, and the protesting citizens. Well, let them know that no illegal action, teargas, arrests or attempts to intimidate and scare people will succeed. The end of Edi Rama has been signed and stamped by the sovereign people,” said Basha.
In a Twitter post that shortly followed Basha’s speech, Prime Minister Edi Rama said “the protest was not worthy, but a shame for the DP and Socialist Movement for Integration. These incurable losers are simply daily raising the bill that the sovereign will give them on June 30.”
The tense atmosphere that began in front of the government building was repeated in front of the parliament’s headquarters, where protesters gathered in response to the call of opposition leaders. The police intervened with tear gas to disperse groups of protesters who tried to push the police line, while protesters responded with smoke grenades and firecrackers.
The teargas only restrained protesters for moments before they returned in front of the parliament’s entrance; this situation was repeated several times. Protesters stood persistently in front of the parliament’s headquarters, as did opposition leaders, while smoke grenades, firecrackers and the occasional Molotov bombs were constantly thrown at the parliament.
According to the police, at least five of its employees were injured and hospitalized. On its part, the opposition has said 15 protesters, among them also journalists, have been injured or have been experiencing breathing problems due to the use of tear gas.
Earlier, in front of the government headquarters, where opposition supporters initially gathered in the evening, protesters managed to break the police line in front of the central entrance of the building shortly after the end of Basha’s speech.
They stayed for a few minutes on the stairs of the Prime Minister’s Office, while the police forces did not intervene to repel them. Meanwhile, President Ilir Meta called for a peaceful protest and to avoid confrontations.
Through a Twitter post, Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj condemned the opposition’s action.
“Even today, blind violence is affecting constitutional institutions and the Albanian State Police. Injuring police forces is a shame and gross violation of the law and the perpetrators will be held accountable,” wrote Lleshaj.
On his part, Rama expressed solidarity towards the police forces.
“Remorse for the police wounded by the blows of the two blind parties marching into the road of self-destruction,” Rama wrote.
This was the 9th opposition protest since February, and the third in front of the government headquarters. The opposition was withdrawn by the parliament and its deputies handed the mandates to the block. An extreme decision openly criticized by the international community. Earlier this week during his visit to Tirana, Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State Matthew Palmer called on opposition parties to re-engage in the political process, stressing that local elections in June are the best opportunity to do so first.