Skopje: Albanians protest to prevent installation of cross
A group of protesters on Thursday occupied a location in the Skopje municipality of Butel, where a metal 55 meter-tall cross was to be installed.Source: Beta
The protesters were led by officials of the largest ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).
The group was led by high ranking official of DUI Izet Medziti, who is president of the neighboring municipality of Cair. A monument to the black double-headed eagle, the symbol of Albanians, was unveiled in a Chair roundabout on February 16.
The protesters at the roundabout in Butel last night set up tents and Albanian flags, previously tearing down a fence around the foundations for the cross that had been built in the previous days under the supervision of the police.
Speaking in front of several hundred demonstrators, Medziti said they had not organized a political protest, but "a revolt because of religious divisions as crosses and minarets only belong in places of worship, not at intersections or in the middle of the street."
Medziti announced that the demonstrators will remain there until the municipality of Butel withdraws the decision on setting up the cross. After the rally, a few dozen activists and supporters of DUI remained there.
The donor of the cross, President of the World Macedonian Congress Todor Petrov was on February 27 beaten as he was having lunch in a restaurant in Skopje. This happened shortly after the foundations for the cross were consecrated. While in the hospital, Petrov used his Facebook account to accuse DUI official Bekir Asani as one of his attackers, adding that Izet Medziti was also "present."
The police were present at the protest last night, as were, according to some media reports, DUI MPs Artan Grubi and Talat Xhaferi, as well as Minister for Education Abulaim Ademi.
Leaders of the opposition SDSM led by Zoran Zaev, and the second largest Albanian party DPA led by Menduh Thaci urged citizens before the protest "not to fall for provocations."
Zaev and Thaci expressed a similar view - that the latests instances of installations of national and religious symbols in Skopje represent "a new episode in a pre-election scenario" of the VMRO DPMNE and the DUI, the parties of the ruling coalition.
Beta agency is reporting that many Skopje-based analysts and those well acquainted with the Macedonian political scene also think this is "a pre-election manipulation of national feelings, resorted to by the VMRO DPMNE party and the DUI in order to strengthen their position."