Albania’s capital, Tirana, was plunged into chaos on Saturday as thousands of people swarmed the square in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s residence, clashing with police and storming the building with metal poles.
Violence erupted at the protest against Rama’s Socialist Party government, with hundreds of demonstrators breaking through police cordons set up around the residence.
Footage filmed by the Ruptly video agency shows angry protesters tearing down a green safety net around the scaffolding erected over the building’s entrance to protect its illuminated marquee – an artwork by renowned French artist Philippe Parreno.
The protesters could be seen pulling the net and breaking metal bars off the scaffolding, which they then used as rams to try and force their way into the building.
Some of the rioters, armed with big chunks of metal, stones and wooden sticks, charged at the doors and windows, but these were apparently made from reinforced glass.
A couple of demonstrators climbed the scaffolding despite the heavy police presence, and waved national flags atop the temporary structure.
The protesters were ultimately unable to break into the building.
Police responded to the rioting by firing tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs at the crowd. A row of snipers could be seen on standby on the roof.
Rama, who waited out the Saturday unrest in Albania’s southern town of Vlora, tweeted a picture of a destroyed mushroom sculpture by German artist Carsten Holler, which had been on display in the residence’s garden.
“Carsten, this is not Albania, they are not Albanians,” Rama, who is himself a well-known artist in his country and beyond, wrote.
KEPURDHA – Vepër e Carsten Holler,pjesë e një cikli të ekspozuar në disa muze,dhuruar Kryeministrisë pas një vizite në vendin tonë, që e ktheu artistin e famshëm bashkëkohor në një ambasador të Shqipërisë e shqiptarëve.Ndjesë Carsten,kjo s’është Shqipëria këta s’janë shqiptarët🙏 pic.twitter.com/V2fZssPuSr
— Edi Rama (@ediramaal) February 16, 2019
The prime minister has been facing calls to resign from the opposition Democratic Party, having been accused of corruption in connection with a controversial project to build a highway around Tirana.
“The government was caught stealing, and should go,” Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said after the face-off with police, accusing the Rama government of provoking the violence with a lackluster response to the demonstrations.
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