Thousands of activists gathered for a second consecutive day on Monday, May 18, in the capital Tirana to protest the demolition of the former National Theatre, which took place on Sunday, May 17. The Alliance for the Protection of the Theatre reportedly called on supporters to gather from 16:30 (local time) on Monday; the rally is reportedly ongoing as of 18:30. A heightened security presence has been reported in the vicinity of the National Theatre. Protests on Sunday, May 17, resulted in clashes between demonstrators and security forces and approximately 37 individuals were subsequently arrested.
Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out. Further associated demonstrations are possible in Tirana in the near term.
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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