TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Public university students protesting the cost of tuition fees have gathered for the largest rally to date, threatening to escalate it unless their demands are met.
Thousands of students on Tuesday held posters, blew vuvuzelas and shouted "Lower the tariffs!" in front of the Education Ministry. Students from other cities and Tirana high schools joined them in a peaceful protest.
After an ultimatum to the government to fulfill their demands expired at 4 p.m. (1500 GMT), students dispersed in three groups — one stayed at the ministry, the other at a nearby crossroad and the third in front of the main government building, pledging to stay there overnight.
Prime Minister Edi Rama appealed for calm on Facebook, asking the protesters to "build the bridge of communication with the government."
Rama blamed the opposition for pushing the students to prevent dialogue, while the main opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said they supported the students.
Students have turned down government's offers for dialogue.
Their demands include cutting tuition fees in half, setting a higher budget for education and a greater student presence on decision-making boards.
Anti-government protests were also held in other cities, where protesters complained of poverty and high fuel prices. Some blocked national roads.
Though not openly affiliated with the protests, the opposition has recently been promoting them and also leading some of the rallies.