Albania: Officials try to deter protest over police shooting

AP International News

A Christmas tree is on fire near the Prime’s Minister office during clashes in Tirana, Albania , on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. Clashes have broken out in Tirana during a protest by hundreds of Albanians demanding the interior minister’s resignation over the fatal police shooting of a 25-year-old man who had breached a coronavirus-linked curfew. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian authorities urged respect for a pandemic ban on public gatherings, ahead of a new planned protest Thursday over the fatal police shooting of a man during curfew hours.

The appeal came after violent demonstrations in central Tirana, Wednesday, where hundreds of people clashed with police and tried to enter government buildings. Authorities said 16 police and two demonstrators were injured.

The protests came in response to the shooting, early Tuesday, of 25-year-old Klodian Rasha. Police said he ignored officers’ calls to stop and ran away. One policeman has been detained over the incident, pending an investigation.

The protests were largely organized over social media.

Police called on protesters Thursday to respect pandemic restrictions, including the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, mandatory use of masks, social distancing and the overnight curfew.

“Gatherings and rallies are a breach” of the coronavirus rules, a police statement said. It added that authorities would not allow new protests, saying that “organizers and participants would confront the power of law.”

On Wednesday hundreds of Albanians defied pandemic rules to hold the protest. Many threw stones and flares at police while trying to force their way into the Interior Ministry, and the main government building that includes the office of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

They also damaged the New Year decorations at the main Skanderbeg Square.

Police fired tear gas to disperse them.

A police statement said three alleged organizers of the illegal protest have been arrested, and another four people were freed after being charged.

Prime Minister Rama, who is in the United States, said he would speak on Rasha’s death later Thursday.

The U.S. embassy in Tirana warned its citizens to avoid public buildings where the protest may be held.

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