The US Consulate and Embassy and British Embassy have issued warnings against the mass demonstration planned by the opposition party, scheduled to take place on Saturday 16th.
Both embassies posted on Facebook stating that whilst they are in support of the right to assemble, and recognise such events as an important part of democracy, they do not agree with violence being used.
“The right to peacefully assemble, petition the government, and protest for positive change are hallmarks of a free and healthy democratic society. It is a right exercised often in the United States. However, this right must be exercised peacefully. Violence against people or property is unacceptable. We call upon all involved in Saturday’s protest, and all of Albania’s political leaders, to reject violence and ensure the demonstrations are conducted peacefully and constructively.”
The British Embassy echoed similar sentiments:
“The UK regards the right to protest as a fundamental democratic right. However, demonstrations must be peaceful if they are to support democracy. We call on all those involved in Saturday’s process to respect this principle #peacefulprotest “
The UK Government then also updated its foreign travel advice to Citizens travelling to Albania, stating that visitors should “check the local media for the latest information, remain vigilant, and avoid any demonstrations”.
Comments on social media and the expat community as a result have been full of fear and unnecessary panic with one-woman stating that she wasn’t going to leave her house tomorrow, despite living almost 1km away from the site of the protest.
There have been no indications that there will be any violence at the protest, nor has any member of the PD advocated the use of force or aggressive measures. This combined with the police stating that the protest will be attended by criminals has been discarded as measures designed to scare people into not attending.
The Democratic Party led by Lulzim Basha has been planning the event for weeks and has been travelling the length of the country to call on supporters to call for an end to the climate of impunity, corruption, and criminality under the Edi Rama Socialist-led government. Speaking in Burrel on Wednesday, Basha stated:
“We should join together this Saturday on the streets of Tirana in a great popular referendum that will put an end to this government of thugs.”
The police responded with a WhatsApp issued statement stating that criminals in attendance at the protest “aim to create a climate of instability in Albania”- a concerning infringement on supposed police impartiality and the freedom of the right of assembly applicable to every citizen and resident in Albania.
Edi Rama’s government has a history of arresting, detaining, and even manhandling protestors including families, pregnant women, and students on spurious charges whilst denying them the most basic legal rights.
Basha responded by asking the police to refrain from blocking protesters from attending.
The protest will take place on the main Boulevard and is expected to last for most of the day.