- Calls to donate to grassroots groups like Feminist Collective are increasing following reports of soldiers shooting into crowds of protesters Tuesday.
Content warning: An image embedded at the bottom of this story contains blood.
Artists are urging fans to support the #EndSARS movement following two weeks of civilian protests against the notoriously violent Nigerian police unit.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, first established in 1992, has long been the subject of national outrage, known for cases of police brutality, corruption and criminality. This public outrage resurfaced around the first week of October when a disturbing video started circulating online that showed officers dragging two men from a hotel and shooting one of them unprovoked in the street. Soon, social media was awash with videos and stories of similarly heinous incidents, and thousands of Nigerians took to the streets in protest, demanding accountability and reform, the Guardian reported.
According to The Washington Post, the government has responded to the resurgent protest movement by pledging to disband the unit and move officers elsewhere in the force, free from evaluation or repercussions. Activist group Feminist Coalition describes this promise of dissolution as nothing new, citing similar assurances made by the government in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, which resulted in no meaningful change and allowed offending officers to stay on the roads. As such, peaceful protests continued, reiterating demands for accountability, reform and changes in recruitment. On Saturday, October 17th, Hessle Audio affiliate Anz promoted the #endSARS hashtag via a special edition of her NTS show, dedicated to raising awareness of the protests and celebrating 60 years of Nigerian independence.
Multiple witnesses told Reuters that on Tuesday night, October 20th, soldiers opened fire on a group of protesters, killing at least two and injuring more. Speaking with the New York Times, Nigerian artist DJ Switch said she witnessed at least seven casualties in her vicinity at the Lekki-Ikoyi toll bridge and documented some of these incidents through Instagram Live. "The whole place is blocked, there are soldiers everywhere and they came in guns blazing," she said. "Are they going to shoot all of us? The only weapon we have is the Nigerian flag."
In the wake of this escalating violence artists like Skepta, DJ Cuppy, Juba, Flohio, Santan, Tinie Tempah and KG have all vocalized their support for #EndSARS. Robin Stewart of Giant Swan was among those urging people on Twitter to support the work of Feminist Coalition via donation.
Earlier in the month, Burna Boy launched PROTECTPROJECT, an initiative to provide a wealth of different resources to protesters in the wake of the demonstrations. "My greatest concern in all of this is that SARS will end now as it allegedly has multiple times (I recall giving calls to end SARS during my USA tour in April 2019) and morph into a different entity down the line with a different form or a different name. In my opinion, abolishing the unit is a definite first step, but we cannot stop there," he wrote in an announcement on Twitter.
Members of the Nigerian diaspora have also set up a GoFundMe with money raised going to the Feminist Coalition, Kokun Foundation and other grassroots organizations.
For more information on the movement listen to this radio special by presenter Julie Adenuga for online station No Signal. She's joined by Busayo and Tola, founders of the protester-led Soro Soke Radio, which has been streaming daily updates from the ground this week.