By Savannah Kayongo
Image via BBC
Police brutality isn’t an unfamiliar concept here in the United States. When a minority is killed for trivial actions at the hands of law enforcement, many of us protest in the streets against these violent acts. While police brutality is one of America’s heaviest social problems, it does not only happen in America. Police brutality occurs all around the world. Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa, has its streets flooded with mass protests in response to police brutality, known as the #EndSARS movement.
Founded by Simeon Danladi Midenda in 1992, Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (better known as SARS) is a force designed to stop violent crimes such as kidnapping, handling firearms, robbery, etc. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. SARS Police in Nigeria has been stated to “profile” civilians for simple, everyday things, like having an iPhone, wearing tight or branded clothes/shoes, driving nice cars, having tattoos, and even wearing certain hairstyles. While they are supposed to protect Nigeria, they have been reported to kill, torture, and in certain cases, rape young men and women in Nigeria. Consequently, the #EndSARSwas a hashtag started in 2017 to put a stop to the police brutality performed by the SARS police.
You might be wondering, ‘If this has been going on for so long, why am I just hearing about this now?’. Though the hashtag has existed for a long time, it wasn’t nearly as popular due to the lack of media attention surrounding it. It was not until a video of the SARS police went viral where the shooting of a young man to death is seen in front of a hotel in Southern Nigeria. Despite the video evidence, the SARS police denied the video was true, prompting an uproar in the Nigerian community. People began protesting in the fight to disband SARS, but the government retaliated. The government used water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and more against peaceful protesters.
In the end, it was all worth it because the government eventually caved in and Nigerian's got what they came for. On October 11th, 2020, the government of Nigeria disbanded SARS.—or so we thought. On October 13th, 2020, they then announced “Special Weapons and Tactics”, otherwise known as SWAT. The rebranding of SARS only gave Nigerians more reasons to protest.
On Tuesday, October 20th, 2020, what is known as Black Tuesday or the Lekki Massacre transpired. Many youths arrived at Lekki toll gate to protest the death of the young man shot by SARS. To say the security was cruel to the protestors is a massive understatement. The police opened fire at the people who came to protest that night, where at least 12 people were killed by security. Even after this, the youth continues to fight.
Image retrieved from Pius Utomi Ekpei—AFP/Getty Images
To this day, Nigerian Youth is on the streets of Lagos and other cities protesting against the unacceptable behavior of the police. The people that are supposed to be stopping the bad guys aren’t supposed to be the bad guys. People should not be dying at the hands of our so-called heroes.
End SARS once and for all.
Written by writer Savannah Kayongo