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Albania Police Warn Against Protests Due to Virus Pandemic

December 14, 2020

TIRANA, Albania — Albanian police on Monday strongly warned demonstrators protesting over the fatal shooting of a man by police enforcing a coronavirus curfew to avoid illegal gatherings.

Police mentioned "the concerning situation caused by the pandemic" in a statement, calling for everyone to respect lockdown measures set by health authorities. Those restrictions include a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people, an overnight curfew, the mandatory use of masks and social distancing.

Albanians have defied a coronavirus ban on public gatherings and there have been clashes with police in recent days after Klodian Rasha was killed in Tirana during a curfew early Tuesday. Police say he ignored officers' calls to stop and ran away. A police officer has been arrested and is being investigated for "homicide in excess of necessary self-defense."

Monday's police statement said that authorities "wouldn't tolerate any gathering that runs counter to existing restrictions."

Demonstrators have hurled stones and other objects against police and at government buildings and destroyed street traffic signs. Police have responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has apologized for what he called the "inexplicable" shooting of Rasha, and his interior minister resigned Thursday.

But that hasn't placated the demonstrators, who are now asking for the resignation of the police chief and the release of those who have been arrested in days of clashes with police. Smaller protests have been held in other cities.

Scores of people have been arrested in five days of protests and almost 300 have been charged with holding an illegal protest during the pandemic, as well as with arson and public order breaches. Authorities say 28 police officers and at least four protesters have been injured in the clashes.

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