Protesters torch Tirana city hall at anticorruption demonstration

Protesters torch Tirana city hall at anticorruption demonstration
Protesters set fire to the main door of the Tirana municipality when they were denied entrance to the building. / Belind Kellici via Facebook
By bne IntelliNews April 20, 2024

Protesters set fire to the main door of the Tirana municipality building on April 19 as a protest against official corruption turned violent. 

Protesters demanded the resignation of Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj, a prominent member of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s ruling Socialist Party, in connection to two corruption scandals. 

They hurled Molotov cocktails at the municipality when they were denied entrance to the building, as well as throwing black ink as a symbol of corruption. 

Veliaj has been under pressure from the opposition to resign after several officials working under him were detained by Albanian special prosectors in the 5D Construction case, involving suspected abuse of office. 

Western ambassadors in Tirana condemned the violence at the protest on April 19. 

The EU delegation in Tirana wrote: "Such acts have no place in a democratic society and have nothing to do with the legitimate right to peaceful protest.” 

“The right to peacefully assemble, protest and demand action against corruption are all vital in any democracy, but the violence undertaken by the organisers has no place.  Responsible political actors should reject all forms of violence. We salute law enforcement officials for their professionalism during today’s protest,” said the US embassy in a statement. 

"The scenes outside the municipality of Tirana today and use of Molotov cocktails have no place in a democracy,” said the British embassy, calling for the rule of law to be respected. 

Despite the criticisms by Western diplomats, protest leaders said another demonstration will be held next Friday, April 26. 

“Erion Veliaj's corruption burns every day the dreams of young people and the hope of capitals to live in a European metropolis,” wrote Democrat Belind Kellici on Facebook, announcing the next protest. 

“Tirana today is a stolen city, without theatre, galleries, libraries, circus, no entertainment and education environment, no parks, no public spaces … no nurseries, with the heaviest traffic in Europe and with the most polluted air in the world.” 

He vowed that opposition activists will continue the protests until Veliaj resigns.

Rama's Socialists came to power back in 2013 pledging to root out corruption, and made considerable progress in their early years in power, but more recently progress has stalled.