Protests against police brutality in Nigeria have reached a peak as soldiers open fire at peaceful protestors on Tuesday night. The violence in Nigeria has gotten severe, and Americans are slow to respond to raise awareness.
People in Lekki sitting on the floor, signing the national anthem & waiving the Nigerian flag just a few minutes before fire was opened on them.
— Moe (@Mochievous) October 20, 2020
Peaceful Protest Turned Violent
For the past two weeks, thousands of Nigerians have been protesting nationwide for the abolishment of a Nigerian police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, also known as SARS for short. SARS has been accused of harassment, torture and murder for years now. After pressure from the public, the unit was disbanded on October 11th, but protests demanding new law enforcement reform continue.
A three day 24-hour curfew was put in place to help control protests. But despite the curfew, things took a turn for the worse in Lagos on Tuesday.
Local photojournalist, Eti-Inyene Godwin Akpan, who has been documenting the protests, told NBC News, “it’s been a peaceful protest from the beginning.” Akpan continued to detail how most of the protests have been people sitting on the ground, holding the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem by a tollgate that distinguishes the affluent area to the mainland.
Around 3pm on Tuesday at the Lekki bridge, Akpan saw bridge workers take down security cameras and turn off street lighting, which caused concern. That evening Nigerian military arrived and began shooting at the crowd. People scrambled to flee the scene while officers destroyed cameras and phones and continued shooting.
A protest organizer who was on the frontlines of the Lekki protest expressed disbelief that the army had denied deaths at the scene, when there was video evidence online. Unverified images have been posted online depicting fires, property damage, gunfire and more. The protest organizer said he feared that dozens of people had been killed that evening, and that gun shots could still be heard into Wednesday morning.
The incident seemed “perfectly planned” by officers, described the organizer. He too had seen the security cameras and street lights get turned off.
The Nigerian army has denied any deaths and have brushed the incident off as fake news on Twitter.
Be Aware!!! pic.twitter.com/rpqNtcYF29
— Nigerian Army (@HQNigerianArmy) October 20, 2020
The hashtags #EndSars and #EndSarsNow are being utilised to spread awareness globally about what is happening right now in Nigeria. But still, many people say this is not enough. An image of a bloodied Nigerian flag starting circulating the internet. It is now one of the most shared images when talking about the protests.
— Vanguard Newspapers (@vanguardngrnews) October 20, 2020
Many people are trying to bring more attention to Americans about the genocide that is happening in Nigeria.
the police are blatantly killing peaceful protesters & unarmed civilians in nigeria. our people need our attention and they need our aid. black people deserve peace worldwide. #EndSARs
— Meechael Myers (@DemetriusHarmon) October 21, 2020
People are urging each other not to be silent right now.
— Aisha Yesufu (@AishaYesufu) October 21, 2020
Similarities are being drawn between what is happening in Nigeria to the Black Lives Matter movement this past summer. Nigerians are being harmed for peacefully protesting police, much like what happened in America during the BLM movement this past summer. Twitter users are calling for the same amount of energy for Nigeria that was given during the BLM movement.
We stopped the entire world for the BLM movement, but now when there are pressing issues happening in Nigeria & Congo the world is quieter. Black lives in Africa are black lives that also matter. #EndsSARS #EndSWAT #CongoIsBleeding #congogenocide
— A (@_IndelibleA) October 16, 2020
This Twitter users summarizes the irony many people see in this situation; pointing out the humor in asking for the same energy as BLM when the violent protests in Nigeria are still about Black lives facing police brutality.
I don’t appreciate people saying
“GIVE NIGERIA THE SAME ATTENTION YOU GAVE THE BLM MOVEMENT”
As if nigerians aren’t black. Nigerian lives ARE black lives. There is no separation. BLM movement focused around police brutality. Nigerians are suffering from police brutality!!
— Monay (@Lunathesnob) October 21, 2020
Most of the talk in America right now surrounding the protests in Nigeria is centered around calling out not only that more energy is needed, but almost how ashamed everyone should be for picking and choosing which Black lives they fight for.
BLM in your bio but you haven’t said a word about Nigeria or any of the other African countries suffering? Are you not embarrassed?
— Rejoice #END SARS🇳🇬 (@uwaemuan) October 21, 2020
Thankfully there are some resources going around! This Twitter user outlines a comprehensive list of how you can help Nigeria from an outside country.
So I've been seeing "what can I do" a lot from folks who want to know how they can help Nigeria from outside the country. There's several ways right now in which you can assist in this movement, a thread:
— Seun (@seuntheactivist) October 21, 2020
How Celebrities Are Responding
Originally very few celebrities were speaking out about what is happening in Nigeria, but slowly more and more have begun to speak out. Rihanna was one of the first big celebrities to take to social media about the protests last night. She posted the viral photo of the bloodied Nigerian flag with the hashtag “#ENDSARS NG.”
She also posted an Instagram story last night, voicing her support for Nigerians in their continued fight against SARS. She tweeted the same posts to her Twitter account.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) October 20, 2020
Beyonce, well known for her activism on behalf of people of color, also spoke out on Instagram, voicing her allyship and the actionable items she is doing to help.
Lizzo also took the time to educate her fans on Instagram about what is happening in Nigeria.
Slowly other celebrities have begun to use their platforms to raise awareness about the situation in Nigeria. But it should be noted that most of the celebrities that have spoken up about Nigeria have been celebrities of color. Most recently Jada Pinkett Smith expressed heartbreak over what is happening in Nigeria on Twitter. She calls for change.
— Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapsmith) October 21, 2020
Of the few white “celebrities” that have spoken out about Nigeria are Presidential candidate Joe Biden. He issued a statement on Tuesday calling on the Nigerian President and military to cease the violence against protesters. He also called for the United States to stand with Nigerians peacefully protesting. President Trump has yet to comment on the issue, at least on Twitter.
Our hearts are with Nigeria during this devastating time as they continue to fight for justice.