Things That Matter

What Is the #EndSARS Movement And Why Is It Taking Over Social Media?

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

You’ve probably seen the social media posts while scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. Young Nigerians are calling on the public to take notice of the brutality they are facing at home. They post tweets describing terror and violence at the hands of a brutal and powerful police force. They hashtag their posts with #EndSARS.

For non-Nigerians, the call to action can be confusing. What is SARS? Why is the movement calling to end it suddenly everywhere? And why are Nigerians calling for an end to it in the first place? Below, we’ve broken down the #EndSARS movement so it is easy to understand.

What is SARS?

SARS (which stands for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad) is a section of the Nigerian police department that was made in 1992 to combat armed robbery. The unit was also in charge of dealing with other similar violent crimes, like kidnapping and car theft. Since their inception, the officers have operated outside the law harassing citizens (mostly men) without good reason. Many of them don’t even wear uniforms or nametags.

Why are Nigerians protesting SARS?

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Since it’s creation, SARS has become corrupt and has been accused of violating human rights in a myriad of ways. According to The Washington Post, SARS has been responsible for “extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, armed extortion and kidnapping.”

The unit’s officers especially target young people with flashy clothes, cars, or expensive devices, like laptops or smart phones. Usually, only way to get out of SARS custody is through a bribe. It is worth noting that Nigeria is a young country–40% of the population comprised of people under thirty.

What started this round of protests?

Although the first use of the #EndSARS hashtag was documented in 2017, the movement took on a new life in early October, 2020. On October 3rd, a video went viral of SARS police officers shooting a young man and driving away in his luxury SUV. It was then that young Nigerians, including popular celebrities, organized protests calling for an end to SARS.

“Nigeria is facing a reckoning, one that is long overdue,” said professor of global affairs and politics Yetunde Omede to CNN. “With a growing youth bulge of under 30 years old, Nigeria can no longer ignore the demands of young people.”

What has been the government response?

Unfortunately, the government initially met the anti-SARS protests with violence. On October 20th, Nigerian soldiers killed at least 10 protestors who were blocking a highway in Nigeria’s capital, Lagos. That same night, Amnesty International reported that the military and the police force killed 38 Nigerians altogether and many more were injured. It was soon dubbed the Lekki Massacre and served as a snapchat of the brutality that protestors faced in the past month. The incident further inflamed young Nigerians.

On October 11th, the Nigerian government announced that they were dissolving SARS. But the dissolution came with caveats. According to the Nigeria Police Force, SARS officers will be “redeployed” to different police units and a new anti-theft police force will soon be “unveiled.”

What changes do Nigerians want?

Many Nigerians (who are already distrustful of the government) were skeptical of this pronouncement. In response, young Nigerians released their “Five Demands” which they believe will adequately address the wrongdoings of SARS.

The demands include asking for the release of arrested protestors, compensation for the victims of police brutality, re-training of former SARS officers before they’re redeployed, and adequate compensation for officers (presumably so they’re not so tempted to demand bribes). As for whether the Nigerian government will heed the demands of Nigeria’s youth, that remains to be seen.

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Los Angeles Coroner Ordered a Rare Inquest Into the Police Shooting of Andrés Guardado

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Los Angeles Coroner Ordered a Rare Inquest Into the Police Shooting of Andrés Guardado

Photo by DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

Months after the country was enraged at the seemingly unjustified killing of Andrés Guardado, the Los Angeles coroner is finally ordering an official inquest into the death of the 18-year-old  Salvadoran-American. It will be the first of such an inquest in Los Angeles in 30 years. 

The coroner’s decision is in direct conflict with the LA Sheriff’s department’s wishes. The LAPD had requested a “security hold” on the case, which initially kept Guardado’s autopsy and cause of death under wraps.

The LA County coroner wrote that he is “committed to transparency and providing the residents of Los Angeles County an independent assessment of its findings” in the case of Guardado’s death. He continued: “An inquest ensures that our residents will have an independent review of all the evidence and findings of our office and of the cause and manner of death of Mr. Guardado.”

An inquest will allow for the coroner’s office to subpoena witnesses and gather evidence that it will present to an independent officer to make an assessment. 

Andrés Guardado was shot in the back five times and subsequently killed by Deputies Miguel Vega and Chris Hernandez in July of this year. Guardado was working as an unofficial security guard at an auto body shop in Compton when he allegedly fled the location when he saw the two police officers approaching. The officers claim that Guardado produced a gun at some point while he was running from them. The autopsy report shows that he was laying on the ground when he was shot. 

Guardado’s family claims that the killing was both unprompted and unjustified. They believe that Guardado fled from the police officers because he was frightened of police officers during a time of immense volatility between police officers and communities of color. 

“My brother was frightened,” Andrés’s sister Jennifer Guardado told local news shortly after his death. “He ran away because he knew what was gonna happen.”

The family has since come forward saying that they believe the police officers involved in the shooting were a part of a violent Los Angeles-based police gang who “were possibly acting in connection and in agreement with” other police gang members. The Guardado family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles County and its sheriff’s department.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been vocal about his displeasure with the LA Coroner’s decision. At a press conference, he called the inquest a “circus stunt” and claimed that the coroner “sacrificed the integrity of the investigation in a bid to satisfy public curiosity.”

But the Los Angeles community, by in large, seems to stand by the coroner’s decision. “An independent review should not be rare, it should be the norm,” wrote Ventura resident Elidet Bordon on Twitter. “I hope Andres Guardado and his family get the justice he deserves.”

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Protesters In Cancun Were Marching In Support Of The Latest Woman Murdered In Mexico When Police Opened Fire On Them

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Protesters In Cancun Were Marching In Support Of The Latest Woman Murdered In Mexico When Police Opened Fire On Them

Elizabeth Ruiz / Getty Images

As Mexico continues to struggle to stem the growing violence against women, many are taking to the streets to voice their anger and frustration. From Mexico City to Cancun, women are being raped, gun downed, and murdered at staggering levels – it’s estimated that 10 women are murdered every day in the country.

And as the government fails to protect them, many are leading protests to demand action. However, the latest series of protests, which took place in Cancun after the disappearance and murder of a 20-year-old woman named Alexis, resulted in police officers opening fire on protesters and shooting at least four people.

Police opened fire on protesters in Cancun using live ammunition.

State officials and human rights activists are expressing shock and outrage after police opened fire on protesters during a march against femicide in Cancun.

Protesters were marching on city hall when police officers approached and opened fire, causing demostrators to disperse amid chaotic scenes. The newspaper Por Esto posted a photo of a police officer waving a pistol in the air. National guard agents appeared to have taken up positions around city hall after the shooting to increase security.

So far, officials have confirmed several injuries – including four journalists who were shot during the chaos.

According to the state governor, Carlos Joaquín, responsibility lay with the local police chief, who ordered officers to open fire to disperse the crowd. “I completely reject any intimidation or attack against protesters,” Joaquín said in a tweet. “I gave orders that there be no attacks and no guns at the marches scheduled for today. I will investigate the irresponsible person who gave orders that contradicted that.”

Since then, Cancun’s Municipal Public Security Secretary has been fired and the state’s head of police, temporarily suspended from his position.

While the city’s police chief, Alberto Capella, condemned the attack on the protesters and also ordered an internal investigation, adding that his resignation was on the table since six police officers in his control participated. He said “my face falls with shame.”

The violence also reflected a pattern of violence against the press. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Three Mexican journalists have been murdered in the last month, among them Arturo Alba in Ciudad Juárez, Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas in Sonora and Israel Vazquez Rangel in Guanajuato.

Protesters were drawing attention to the recent murder of Bianca “Alexis” Lorenzana – one of many women who have been killed just this year.

Monday’s protest in Cancun was called for after the dismembered body of 20-year-old Bianca “Alexis” Lorenzana, was found, days after she disappeared. It was the latest in a string of grisly crimes against women and girls in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo.

Lorenzana’s mother had originally asked for a peaceful march to demand justice for her daughter. But partway through the demonstration she changed her mind, reportedly telling protesters: “Burn it all, because Alexis would have done that for you.”

Some on the march followed her call, breaking windows and spraying graffiti on the local prosecutor’s office, then the city hall.

The Cancún protest also reflected Mexican feminists’ growing use of “direct action”: as violence rates against women have soared, protesters across the country have increasingly resorted to breaking windows, starting fires and marking graffiti across public buildings.

Mexico is experiencing a femicide crisis and many across the country are standing up to say enough is enough.

Credit: Elizabeth Ruiz / Getty Images

It’s estimated that every single day 10 women are murdered in Mexico. That figure is just staggering and it’s causing an outpouring of grief and anger from women across the nation who no longer feel safe.

It’s also leading to more protests by an increasingly active and outspoken feminist movement, who are angry at the local and federal government for failing to stem the violence.

Activists’ frustration has focused on the country’s current leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has downplayed gender issues and accused feminist critics of allying with his conservative political opponents.

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