Nigerian Youths Hold #EndSARS Memorial Protests in Abuja, Lagos
Nigerian youths held memorial protests in Lagos and Abuja on Wednesday, a year after security forces violently suppressed mass protests against police brutality and bad governance.
Protesters rallied in a procession of cars waving green and white national flags from windows at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, the site of the crackdown on last year’s #EndSARS demonstrations.
Police deployed at Lekki allowed the cars to pass through the tollgate as protesters blasted horns and chanted for justice.
At least six people were arrested at Lekki though the main highway was not blocked by protesters, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.
“EndSARS, remember them, remember them,” shouted one man from inside a police van after he was detained.
Last year’s rallies began over brutality by the SARS police unit but snowballed into protests over bad governance in the largest mass demonstrations in Nigeria’s modern history.
They came to a halt after October 20, 2020, when security forces shot at thousands of peaceful protesters gathered at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos.
Several dozen protesters also gathered in Abuja on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary, chanting “The people united can never be defeated”.
“We came here for the memorial. It’s very sad what happened. We are here to tell Nigerians and the world that we are still in pain,” said actress Princess Joy, 23, at the Abuja rally.
“We are not worried, this time is going to be peaceful, no fight, no quarrel, no nothing, except if the government wants.”
Messages calling on youths to rally in the capital Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt to “honour the memory of the victims” have been shared tens of thousands of times across social networks.
The crackdown at Lekki tollgate was live-streamed on social media and Amnesty International has since said it has confirmed that at least 10 people were killed.
The Nigerian army denied shooting live rounds, telling a judicial panel only blanks were used to disperse a crowd that had violated a curfew.
The protest movement is named after the social media hashtag #EndSARS, a reference to the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit that was later disbanded.
Nigerian singer Falz, who has over eight million followers on Instagram, was among those who planned rallies in Lagos.
“It is impossible for us not to memorialise our fallen heroes,” Falz wrote. “We will never ever forget.”
“Innocent Nigerian citizens waved flags and sang till they were shot at, injured and killed.”
Recent weeks have seen multiple warnings against more EndSARS protests by the authorities, who say they turned into rioting and pillaging last year.
According to Amnesty, at least 56 people died nationwide during the weeks of protests in 2020.
Police reported 51 civilians and 22 officers killed in and around the demonstrations, with 205 police stations and other buildings set ablaze or vandalised.
In February, several dozen protesters gathered at the Lekki tollgate to demand justice for the victims of the crackdown. All the protesters were arrested.
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