Police beat would-be demonstrators with clubs and detained opposition leaders Saturday in an effort to quell even the smallest anti-government protests by victims of shady get-rich-quick schemes.
The harsh police response reflected the government’s determination to prevent a repeat of the huge demonstrations several weeks ago after the government shut down the schemes.
Traffic in downtown Tirana came to a standstill when police blocked roads to Skanderbeg Square, where a rally that had been banned was to take place.
Riot and plainclothes police clubbed a number of people, and 15 opposition leaders were detained, including a spokesman for the opposition Socialist Party.
In Fier, 40 miles south of Tirana, at least 10 people were hurt, including a photographer and cameraman from The Associated Press and two other journalists, when police tried to break up a demonstration by about 5,000 people. Some police were carrying large wooden sticks.
The beaten journalists said they had been attacked by plainclothes police, and that in some cases demonstrators had tried to intervene to fend off the assailants.
The AP cameraman, Spiro Ilo, was assaulted when he tried to film a man being beaten bloody by police.
But the Interior Ministry claimed “unknown people” had attacked the members of the media, and said an investigation was under way.
Police have banned and broken up a series of rallies scheduled by the opposition since late last month, when irate Albanians lashed out at the government over the loss of their life savings in collapsed pyramid schemes.
Many protesters believe that money missing from the pyramid schemes was stolen by the governing Democratic Party.