For more than 12 hours Police forces surrounded the building of the National Theatre in Tirana, forcing artists and activists to break in and leading to tensions and clashes with the citizens outside the building.
The recent events are part of a 16-month battle, which started on February 2018 when the government of Albania decided to pass a special law on demolishing the existing Theatre and giving the property to investors through a PPP scheme. The investors could use the theatre’s public land for their own gains, and in exchange, they would have to build a new Theatre, which was originally planned to cover only 1/3 of the actual land.
Artists and citizens got organized, they created the Alliance for the protection of the Theatre and since February 2018, they’ve been protesting every day in front of the building, preventing the government to continue with the demolishing plans.
Last week, the municipality announced that they would restart the procurement procedures for the new Theatre, leading to a non-stop resistance outside the building, with activists spending the night outside and citizens joining them, including opposition leaders and former MP’s.
On Wednesday, the Police forces were sent to surround the Theatre and empty the buildings. The Prime Minister declared on Twitter that “No minority can hijack anything and anyone in this country. Despite the respect for a minority of theater and political actors who have never entered the actual theater, they are used to making theater with everything, the new National Theater will be built as a plan and government responsibility.“
Immediately after that, the mayor of Tirana who has been accused by the Alliance and many other activists for his actions that have destroyed many green areas of the city reacted accusing the artists and activists as “puppets” of the opposition parties.
“It started against the lake, then against the Square, against the Bazaar, against the new Boulevard, against the Castle, against the Elections and today [they are] against the New Theater!
Against, Against, Against!
Have you noticed that the move against country progress is the same group? PD & LSI with “puppets”!!
The President also reacted to the decision to continue with the demolishing of the building, stating that the law was unconstitutional and such scenes were not even witnessed during the communist regime. He submitted the law for review at the Constitutional Court, which hasn’t been functioning for more than a year because of the vetting of judges and justice reform.
In the lawsuit published, the president says the law is in conflict with the constitution, is discriminatory and violates the principle of legal certainty.
In the vacuum created, with the High Court and Constitutional Court currently not functioning, the government is being accused of trying control all forms of opposition, being it political or even civic initiatives.
Artists were seen crying. A citizen was hurt during the clashes and many protestors were shouting and demanding the police to withstand the order.
In the evening, after more than 12 hours of resistance, the police withdrew and activists continued their protest in front of the building, claiming victory and declaring that they would continue the resistance until the law would be declared null.
They also issued a statement for the OSCE Presence in Albania, asking for a meeting with the Secretary-General of the OSCE Mr.Thomas Greminger, who is holding an official visit in Albania.
On their Twitter account, the Alliance also asked the international accredited missions in Albania to react, since, in lack of functioning courts, the government is ruling uncontested.
“A well-meaning international community would call on the government to halt their decision-making process until the courts are fully functional once again.”, declared the Alliance on Twitter.
Thursday started more peacefully, with many artists and citizens still remaining in the surroundings of the Theatre, preparing for the next clash of this never-ending battle, that would have to wait for a functioning judiciary to give a final verdict on the law. And the functioning judiciary is still far away on the horizon …