[WATCH] “They’re living on the benefit of the masses:” rally to #endSARS and state corruption

Hundreds assembled downtown to protest against police brutality in Nigeria
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Hundreds assembled downtown to protest against police brutality in Nigeria

TORONTO — Sat. morning, Yonge-Dundas Square became an impassioned theatre of activism today, as hundreds of Torontonians convened for their respective campaigns. One group of locals protested against the police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Nigeria and another against the state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions, as was their custom every Saturday.

For years, Nigerian citizens have been combating against rampant police brutality, however, the national fight inflated to a global movement known by hashtag, #EndSARS, this month.

The project to abolish SARS was occasioned by the death of a young boy in Ughelli, Delta State who was shot dead by a police officer in early Oct. When Twitter user @AfricaOfficial2 tweeted about the tragedy and accompanying video, the global #EndSARS movement ignited within just one weekend.

 

#EndSARS aims to expose the violent and oftentimes lethal abuse of power committed by law enforcement officers, who have reportedly kidnapped, tortured, pillaged, unlawfully arrested, and murdered citizens with impunity.

The police have also been accused of intentionally brutalizing the Nigerian youth by means of temperature readings and mandatory searches—allegedly with avaricious intentions. 

“If you own a knife in Nigeria,” Matthew, a protester, said, “the police are gonna pull you over, start collecting your details and invading your privacy.”

Matthew was primarily motivated to revitalize the governmental system and restore democracy.

“The politicians are living in luxury but the [populace is] living in the lousiest parts of Nigeria,” he said. “They’re living on the benefits of the masses.”

Protests calling to dissolve SARS erupted in Nigeria, which was met by hostile governmental suppression. With a fervent call and response, the rally leaders sought to galvanize the rest of Canada to end the injustice overseas.

“End what?” organizers asked through megaphones. “End SARS!” protesters shouted the rallying cry in response.

Patience Evbagharu, local activist and a key speaker, roused the crowd with her own statement.

“How many people are tired of bribing police?” Evbagharu asked the crowd.

Evbagharu said it is important for Canadians to inform themselves about what's happening abroad (PHOTO: Debbie Deer)

#EndSARS supporters had vibrant, evocative signs at the ready. “I work too hard to be killed by a trigger-happy cop,” one read. 

A supporter even brought a shekere to enliven and amplify the cause. At one point of the protest, the crowd broke out in a moving song and dance, repeating the refrain, “Solidarity forever.”

The #EndSARS demonstration today sought to reform not just the police force, as many protestors express, but also to reform the state institutions where stakeholders, political or otherwise, abuse power under the guise of democracy.

“Our issue is more than just the police force,” Evbagharu told INN24. “Our issue is corruption in our country.”

“People are being discriminated [against], targeted, abused—for what reason?” she asked. “We must sign the solidarity over justice; we must sign the solidarity over what we call democracy.”

Youth activism: most of the #EndSARS supporters were either Millennials or Zoomers (PHOTO: Vicki A. Lee)

Protesters were not limited to just those of Nigerian citizenship nor those belonging to the diaspora, as many allies were present in solidarity for the cause. As expressed by many supporters today, the objective #EndSARS transcends geographic borders.

Evbagharu pictured in #EndSARS procession (PHOTO: @revalanche on Twitter)

“Whether you’re Nigerian or not, do your research on what’s happening,” Evbagharu said.

“It’s not a matter of race or anything of that sort. It’s a matter of humanity.”

The diverse crowd of allies present at the protest hammered Evbagharu’s point home. Many supporters said that Canadians must not be complacent about the freedoms they enjoy and need to stay informed about the injustices in other parts of the world.

“Try to be understanding and appreciative of the life we have here and help others achieve that too,” said Lucas from I AM, I CAN, I WILL, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower marginalized communities abroad. 

Wiki Production Code: A0244

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