Nigeria has seen several weeks of protests against the Specialized Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the nationalized police force that demonstrators say is complicit in massive abuses of authority, kidnapping, sexual assault, intimidation and killings.
The movement has grabbed international attention as a global pushback against police abuse, and spurred the social media hashtag #EndSARS. It has also gained momentum, stretching as far as Montgomery, Ala., the cradle of the U.S. civil rights movement.
“They cut off the streetlights, the streetlights, social amenities, they cut it off. Then what happened? Law enforcement agents trooped in and started shooting at peaceful protesters,” Otii Sobeiekon, one of the demonstrators in Montgomery told local station WSFA during a Sunday (Oct. 25) protest.
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Last week in Los Angeles, demonstrators held a candlelight vigil for victims of police abuse in Nigeria in front of City Hall. In Washington D.C., earlier this month, they gathered at the Nigerian Embassy to voice their frustration with the Nigerian government.
“The aim primarily was to let people know at home that they are not alone,” Tolu Awodiya told Washington station WUSA. “We know about it, we’ve experienced it and we are also for change.”
Human rights organization Amnesty International reports at least 12 people have been killed in demonstrations at two locations in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. A total of 56 people have died in the protests since the began Oct. 8, with hundreds of injuries. However, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari counts an even higher number at 69 deaths, according to the BBC.
Massive calls have ensued for Buhari to step down as president because of the continued violence. Christian Ihenacho, executive director of the Nigerian-Americans United Political Action Committee told BET.com last week that demonstrators see a failure in his leadership.
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“The reason people are calling for Buhari to step down is because he came in with the greatest support of the youth,” Ihenacho said. “We saw in 2015 that the man had the greatest support and we thought he’d do the right thing but since he came to power there’s been more unrest in the country.
“Not only that but if Nigeria were being governed well, I don’t think there would be any unrest, but conditions have gotten worse.”
Back in Montgomery, demonstrators were unified with other protesters against police violence around the world and are calling for an end to it all.
“We want actions, we don’t want words, we don’t want the government to end a group and start another group,” protestor Comforc Doutimiwei told WFSA. “We need to rise up anywhere we see injustice and say no, we do not want this in our world”