Soldiers in the Albanian capital fired shots in the air Thursday to disperse pro-democracy supporters who danced joyously atop tanks after winning concessions from the Communist government, witnesses said.
The troops fired the warning shots over a crowd of about 200 people who gathered around two tanks and an armored vehicle parked at a road block in front of a district in Tirana where the Communist leadership lives, a city resident said by telephone.The tanks had pulled out of Heroes' Boulevard, Tirana's main thoroughfare, earlier in the day and police patrols in the capital maintained an uneasy peace. The tanks were called in Wednesday after pro-democracy protesters toppled monuments to Albania's former Stalinist leader, Enver Hoxha, and forced concessions from the Communist leadership.
But the tanks reappeared later Thursday, and some protesters at the road block climbed on top of them, singing and dancing, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the soldiers fired into the air, and the crowd dispersed calmly. There were no injuries or arrests, he said.
Earlier Thursday, pro-democracy youths scaled the Palace of Culture in downtown Skanderbeg Square and dismantled giant red letters spelling out the Communist slogan: "Long Live the Party of Labor of Albania," the resident said.
The Party of Labor is the formal name of Albania's Communist Party.
The youths left only the word "Albania" standing on top of the arcaded stone building, the resident added.
Two other Albanian witnesses, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, gave similar accounts of Thursday's events. All three residents said Tirana was calm after the protesters dispersed.