Today, several students interrupted and blamed Mayor Erion Veliaj for the death of the 17-year-old Ardit Gjoklaj, who died in a landfill operated by the municipality in 2016.
In a video recorded by students, Veliaj appeared to have arranged a meeting with some female students at the Student Town in Tirana, where he has recently been engaged in a project for renovating student apartments through what he calls “adoption of student buildings by private construction firms”. Following the student protest, Veliaj has called on private companies to “adopt” and renovate a student residence.
Today, Veliaj was there to inform students about his project.
Mayor Veliaj: Hello, hello, hello! Thanks for having me. Where is the girl from Gramsh city I met earlier? There she is. The plumber fixing your showers and his whole crew is also from Gramsh. I told him: There we have a wonderful team from Gramsh fixing showers and bathrooms, and an excellent student also from Gramsh! Therefore, starting from now you will be the municipality inspector to supervise the work here.
Gals, I won’t take much of your time as you surely have better things to do than being with Lali Eri [a nickname Mayor Veliaj has decided to call himself by for some time now – in third person – roughly translated as “Eri Boy”] I just wanted to give you some very brief info and be transparent about the ongoing work and future steps. It’s almost an obligation for us to start works while you are still living here. That’s because of several reasons.
Student: Was is not an obligation for you so far?
Mayor Veliaj: I will explain it.
Studentja: No, we’re not here to listen to your explanations. We’re here to have a conversation.
Mayor Veliaj: Do you want me to explain it to you?
Student: No. These crews and all workers arrived here today because you were coming.
Mayor Veliaj: If you don’t want to listen, that’s ok [indicates the door], you can go out. You can’t wish bad for someone who’s helping you.
Student: You’re not helping us at all. You should be doing your duty.
Mayor Veliaj: It’s very difficult for me to imagine how after graduating from university you could…
Student: You, Mr. Veliaj, you are a murderer. You murdered Ardit Gjoklaj, the 17-year-old boy who could have been a student today, who could have been protesting…
Mayor Veliaj: Sure, sure, you can go to the prosecution office. I can assure you it’s not as you say.
Student: You and your propaganda and PR cannot stop me from saying that you have murdered Ardit Gjoklaj, the 17-year-old boy who died, and who was living in awful conditions.
Mayor Veliaj: I’m not stopping you.
The video further shows someone trying to grab the video-recording cellphone, while the student holding it tells the person to stop. Some media reported that it was Mayor Veliaj’s bodyguard trying to seize the phone, and also that students interrupting the activity were taken out of the room.