On October 20, 2020, Nigerian police shot at #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate in metropolitan Lagos. Nigerian police claim that 25 were injured but no people were killed in the shooting. Amnesty International has contested these findings.
- Amnesty reports that 15 people have been killed by authorities since this recent wave of protests began two weeks ago.
Nigerians have been very active spreading evidence of police violence from recent protests on social media (Graphic violence warning below)
What is #EndSARS?
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a faction of the Nigerian Police Force established in 1992, ostensibly to combat the increase in armed robbery. In reality, SARS, which often operates above the confines of the law, has been involved in unlawful murder, rape, theft and kidnapping, often targeting young people with smartphones or laptops. In some cases, SARS operatives rob people by forcing them to withdraw cash from an ATM at gunpoint.
In 2016, Amnesty International reported that the allegations were credible and that SARS would often force confessions out of their victims through severe beating, hanging, starvation and threats of execution.
2020 #EndSARS Protests
After days of protest, on October 11, 2020, Nigeria Police’s inspector general announced the “dissolution” of SARS. However, many protestors are unconvinced, as former SARS operatives will merely be transferred to other divisions in the police force.
The protestors are now focused on ending police brutality generally. A 2017 report indicated that Nigeria police was the worst in the world. One reason for this is that police are often paid very little, and resort to bribes and extortion as supplementary income.
World Police Brutality
The story in Nigeria only reflects the acute realities of police activity in the 21st century. In July 2020, protests erupted in France after a man was killed while saying “J’étouffe,” the French equivalent to “I can’t breathe”. Prolonged protests in Chile over the human rights abuses of the Carabineros, the national police force, have also captured the attention of South America.
While the Western world is primarily focused on the George Floyd protests, the largest protest movement in U.S. history, police brutality has linked every corner of the world with each other, as human rights abuses, protestor killings and flagrant flouting of the law has become commonplace.
The Big Picture
Despite the fact that the world is engulfed in one of the most devastating pandemics in recent history, police brutality protests are at an all-time high. Although in the Western world, police brutality often revolves around race, in Nigeria, police tend to target youth. People have stormed social media in support of protests worldwide, and although those in power tend to be older, it is the youth that is asking the biggest questions about reform and justice.
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