Protesters, Police Clash over Theatre Demolition in Tirana

Demolition workers bulldozing the National Theatre in Tirana, Albania, on May 17, 2020. Photo: Nensi Bogdani/BIRN

The demolition was bitterly opposed by activists, opposition politicians and artists who wanted the buildings originally constructed during World War II during the Italian occupation to be renovated.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, on the other hand, said that those who opposed his plan for a new theatre "don't love development".

After the demolition, several hundred protesters battled the police. A number were arrested after hitting police with bottles of water. Police also arrested a journalist, Alfred Lela.

President Ilir Meta intervened in the dispute on the side of the protesters, calling the demolition of the theatre "a moral crime that cannot be granted amnesty." He also criticized the violence used against protesting artists and journalists by police.

The EU Delegation in Tirana also criticised the demolition of the theatre, saying it had come at a time when "we called for dialogue between authorities and civil society before an irreversible decision is taken." 

"We regret that this call has not been followed up by the relevant national and local institutions," it said.

Previously, the EU Commissioner for Culture, Mariya Gabriel, urged Albanian authorities to try dialogue before going ahead with demolition work.

"Dialogue with civil society and experts of #cultural heritage is necessary before taking an irreversible decision on #NationalTheatre #Tirana. We strongly encourage all relevant national institutions to engage now in a constructive dialogue with heritage stakeholders," she tweeted.

Edmond Budina, a film director and one of those who protested against the destruction of the buildings, called...

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