#EndSARS, police brutality, and the policing system
If you are on social media you probably saw #EndSARS trending a couple of months ago and wondered what it was exactly.
#EndSARS is a decentralized social movement and series of protests in response to police brutality in Nigeria, specifically the violence and abuse of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Over the past three years, Amnesty International recorded 82 cases of SARS abuses: beatings, hangings, mock executions, sexual assault, and waterboarding.
The slogan #EndSARS calls for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of abuses against civilians. The movement gained traction after footage of Nigerian officers chasing and dragging two men from a hotel and shooting one of them outside went viral on social media. Daniel Chibuike, the man shot, was later pronounced dead. According to an online post, Daniel was left at the scene to bleed to death by the SARS operatives despite his friend’s pleas to rush him to the hospital.
This video sparked mass outrage and protests in Nigeria against SARS, reigniting calls for police reform. Many other videos demonstrating the brutality and atrocities committed by the SARS unit were also posted which sparked conversation and led to #EndSARS becoming a trending topic on social media. The movement skyrocketed once more after Nigerian security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos State on the evening of October 20, 2020. Ten people died and dozens were injured from this attack.
But it's important to note the movement didn’t arise from these incidents, its origins can be traced back to 2017 when Nigerian activists and youth peacefully protested against SARS brutality and demanded its dissolution. The hashtag #EndSARS was created and used on social media to spread awareness about SARS and the protests. The worldwide attention garnered wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless hard work and dedication of Nigerian activists and protesters over the past couple of years prior to the movement’s popularity in 2020.
In response to the global attention, mass nationwide EndSARS protests, and outrage at the Lekki shooting, the Nigerian government announced the Special Anti-Robbery Squad would be dissolved in October. Yet, many Nigerian activists pointed out how this move was entirely symbolic and trivial as the Nigerian government had made similar announcements to disband the unit before without following through.
The activists were proven correct as almost immediately after SARS was officially disbanded it was replaced by a similar unit with a different name: Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. Therefore, the protests were and are no longer aimed at just SARS; it has extended to calling out the brutality and corruption of all police forces in Nigeria and the faults of the Nigerian government. The EndSARS protesters’ are bravely demanding change, even as they are continually tear-gassed and shot at by officers despite the fact that the overwhelming majority are peacefully protesting.
Historical offenses and atrocities committed against citizens by the police. Mass protests against police brutality. Demands of justice and accountability for the lives stolen by the police. Abuse of power in policing. Protestors being tear-gassed, arrested, injured, killed by police officers. All sound eerily familiar to those of us in the United States. The entire world watched and joined in solidarity the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States last summer after witnessing the murders of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor at the hands of the police.
Even though these movements differ by countries, governments, policing systems, there is one thing they share. They continue to passionately call for the end of police brutality and the reform or abolishment of the organizations that enforce this. The massive span of the protests and demands for change in policing, reflect the people’s dissatisfaction with the policing system in both Nigeria and the United States. This highlights the problems rampant within the current policing systems as well as the growing popularity of movements that refuse to let these injustices and abuses continue. Although Nigeria and the United States have both promised and enacted some police reforms, many of these reforms have been called into question as they fail to make any meaningful changes.
To help and stay updated on the EndSARS movement: visit The Punch, a Nigerian daily newspaper that publishes recent updates on events and happenings regarding the EndSARS movement; look through this master list of resources to donate, learn more about, and support the movement; email and petition to the Nigerian government to demand justice for those who died protesting against police violence.
To learn more about the current policing system in the United States and viable solutions in response to police brutality: listen to the podcast The Untold Story: Policing, which explores the complex system of policing here in the US through and what can be done to end police misconduct through discussion with academics, data scientists, organizers, and city officials; read articles about policing from The Marshall Project such as The Future of Policing and