Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Albanian Flag Day

2230 Hours:  Finally the "All Clear" has been given by Security for people to go back to Mission HQ.  Earlier people called to ask if it was okay and security said that things were calm around 1800hrs.  The official tally according to the UN is that the demonstration had 4000 people.  The demonstration was a combination of the Self-Determination group, students from the University of Prishtine, and the War Veterans Association.  The crowd chanted anti-negotation, anti-negotiation team, anti-decentralization, and of course, anti-UNMIK slogans during the demonstration.  Both the government building and UNMIK Mission HQ had windows broken out with bottles filled with red paint.  The crowd also managed to topple on of the concrete blocks that makes up a blast barrier in front of UNMIK MHQ.  The total damage is at 80 windows, 3 government vehicles, and a partridge in a pear tear (just kidding about the bird!) 
An interesting note that I found was that the gate to UNMIK MHQ was chained shut.  Now from reading, it appears that the protesters actually did the chaining.  During that time, the blast barrier was pulled down.  It was a rather smart tactic because no one inside the compound would have been able to see much and it would have taken them a couple minutes to respond once they found out because the main entrance was chained shut.

1700 Hours: Things are quiet now.  The radio has fallen silent so that means that Security is busy taking care of other problems.  The protestors reportedly tried to storm MHQ causing riot police to fire tear gas on the crowd.  So far we still haven't been told that it is okay to go downtown so we may camp out in the offices until we hear something.  Several of my colleagues work in a two block radius to MHQ so going home for them might not be easy if there are still crowds on the streets.  Even living up the hill in Dragodan, I'm ready for anything with my sleeping bag, a couple changes of clothing, and toothbrush.  I can easily camp out in my office for a couple days comfortably should anything major happen.

 1430 Hours:  The demonstration has begun.  UNMIK sent all the staff working downtown home at 1330 hours with the instruction that they were not to return until the "All Clear" has been given.  Wish I was still downtown so I could be off too! :o)  The demonstration is quite large, reported to be around 5000 people which is bigger than I expected.  But then they did bring a lot of people from outside town (I've heard rumors that the villagers are sometimes paid to come to the demonstrations...and some are paid to cause trouble).
The demonstration started at the Government Building where windows were smashed out by thrown rocks.  The crowd has now proceeded to UN Mission HQ and tried to destroy the blast barrier that sits on the street outside the gate in front of the main building.  Security is going crazy with announcements about movement restrictions every few minutes...makes me think that some staff members haven't been paying much attention to the previous warnings!

1000 Hours:  I won't call it Kosovo Flag Day because it really isn't.  Kosovo does not have a flag of its own yet.  The Albanians here are "borrowing" the flag of another country and politicians or the public cannot agree on what kind of flag they want for their own.  Kosovo should it become independent will probably become the first country without its own flag.  Each political party has its own idea what the flag should look like and just like the status negotiations, there is no compromise!