Albanian Police Move to Demolish Country’s National Theater

Albanian police clashed with demonstrators, including artists and opposition supporters Sunday who were protesting the demolition of the country’s National Theater in the capital Tirana.About 40 people were detained early in the morning and police pulled a group of artists away from the building, before heavy machinery started to bring it down.Protesters chanted “Down with the dictatorships.”The leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, renewed calls on residents to topple the government over the theater’s destruction. Basha said, “This is injustice, this violence will continue, this will not stop until this government is gone. There is no other way.” Albanian artists and right activists, both in Albania and abroad, had been protesting for about two years against the government’s decision to destroy the old National Theater, built by Italians during World War II, and replace it with a new one.The artists and others wanted it renovated instead, arguing that the old theater was part of the country’s national heritage.They have directly accused Prime Minister Edi Rama and Tirana’s Mayor Erjon Veliaj of corruption. President Ilir Meta had labeled the theater’s demolition ‘a criminal activity’ in his filing with the Constitutional Court last week against the move.Meanwhile, the European Union delegation to Albania said in a statement it was following Sunday’s developments “with deep concern” and called on the parties to avoid an escalation of the confrontation. 

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