Clashes broke out between security forces and protesters in Tirana on Sunday, May 17, as hundreds of activists and opposition supporters gathered to demonstrate against the controversial demolition of the National Theatre. Police used pepper spray against protesters who were attempting to block the demolition team from carrying out their work. One police officer was hospitalized and 37 protesters were arrested during the unrest.
Related demonstrations are possible in Tirana over the near term. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
The legal battle over the demolition of the National Theatre, built in 1939 during Italian occupation, has been ongoing for two years. Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama has backed the plan to demolish the theater and build a new one, while President Ilir Meta has called the theater demolition "a moral crime". Plans to demolish the theater were temporarily shelved by the government in February 2020, and the protesters have claimed that the new demolition plans are illegal because they have not had the legally required six-month approval period.
Individuals in Tirana are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and abide by all instructions issued by local authorities.
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