A group of Albanian artists and citizens protested against the demolitions of the National Theatre in capital Tirana on Wednesday.
Since early morning police forces surrounded the National Theatre that is going to be demolished and reconstructed by a construction plan of the Municipality of Tirana, approved by the Albanian government.
Representatives of the Alliance for the Protection of the Theatre, actors and citizens were positioned in front of the theatre building and invited other citizens to join them.
Local media reported that “police forces are here to support the theatre administration employees to extract materials and move them elsewhere.”
Albanian director, actor and writer Edmond Budina with tears in his eyes told reporters: “This is a very sad day. We are not defending our homes, but the home of all Albanians. We do not oppose the construction of a new theatre, we just ask that this could be built somewhere else.”
At midday, representatives of the main opposition Democratic Party headed by the leader Lulzim Basha joined the protest. Together with a group of citizens and artists, they entered with force the premises of the theatre, saying that they “will not allow the police to continue with their plan and demolish the theatre.”
In support of the artists, Basha declared that the democrats will defend the theatre, while accusing the construction project of the new theatre, saying that “money laundering is being carried out with the project.”
In a reaction to the protest, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said a minority of artists and politicians cannot take hostage of the country.
“With all respect for a minority of actors and politicians that have never been to the theatre, but are used to make show of everything, I can tell you that the new National Theatre will be built as a governmental plan and responsibility,” tweeted Rama on Twitter.
Meanwhile, a group of artists and citizens have decided to stay inside the premises of the theatre.
In 2018, the Albanian government decided to approve a project on demolishing the old theatre building and construct a new one on the grounds of the current theatre. At that time this decision was opposed and criticised from some groups, leading to small protests.
The law on the construction of the new theatre was passed in the parliament in 2018, and the construction works will be done by a private company through a Public-Private Partnership project.
The building of the theatre dates back in 1939 when Albania was occupied by the Italians. It was the Italian engineer and architect Giulio Berte who projected the building.
In 1945, the name of the theatre changed to that of the State Professional Theatre until 1991 when it was called the National Theatre.