Police and protesters played a violent game of cat and mouse through the streets of Prishtina on Wednesday. It was not the first time this month — or even this week — that the two sides clashed, and opposition leaders have promised that unless the government accedes to their demands it will not be the last.
As the tear gas dissipated and the whir of the police sirens grew fainter on Wednesday evening, a colleague told me a story. In January 2011, 20,000 protesters descended on Tirana. A portion of the protesters started throwing rocks and the escalating situation left three people dead.
Two Kosovar photographers travelled down from Prishtina to document the protests. In the chaos of a tear gas cloud, one turns to the other, “Hey, I think their gas is out of date, it’s not working on me.”
Prishtina seems, once again, to have acclimatized to the scent of gas and the clamoring shouts of angry young men.
While the police deployed armored trucks and hundreds of officers in riot gear to the center of the city, life went on as before. Where one moment there were clashes, another there were commuters. People sat calmly on the café terraces of Mother Theresa Boulevard, sipping their coffees. They continued their conversations as the percussive thud of plastic police shields knocking against the legs of their owners sounded just meters away.
Others turned the day’s events into a spectator sport, gathering on balconies to watch tear gas canisters flop back and forth like a one-sided game of tennis.
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