Hundreds of Albanians gathered in central London on Tuesday evening to joyously celebrate Albanian Independence Day, a public holiday in the country that marks the momentous occasion in 1912 when the Declaration of Independence established the modern Balkan state. This day holds immense significance and pride for Albanians across the globe.
The Metropolitan Police, while initially estimating around 1,000 peaceful attendees near Waterloo Station and Embankment, unfortunately, had to intervene as a small breakaway group turned violent. Despite this, the majority of celebrants remained friendly and well-behaved.
Seven arrests were made, addressing offences such as assaulting police officers, throwing fireworks, and non-compliance with a dispersal order that was in effect until 4 am on Wednesday, extending to areas like Soho and Westminster.
Amid the celebrations, one man was arrested for throwing fireworks, and two cars were stopped because people were joyfully waving Albanian flags through sunroofs. The festivities took an unfortunate turn when a breakaway group ended up in York Road, resulting in confrontations and aggression with bottles thrown toward officers.
While these incidents marred the overall positive atmosphere, it’s essential to recognize the contributions of the Albanian community in the UK. An estimated 140,000 Albanians reside in the country, contributing to its rich diversity. Last year, 16,000 Albanian citizens sought asylum in the UK, constituting 16 per cent of all asylum applicants, according to the Migration Observatory.
Despite challenges, the celebrations reflect the cultural vibrancy and resilience of the Albanian community, highlighting the need for understanding and unity within the diverse fabric of the UK.