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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Apparently Cops Are Playing Music While Being Filmed And It’s For A Very Sinister Reason

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Apparently Cops Are Playing Music While Being Filmed And It’s For A Very Sinister Reason

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Over the past few years, cops sure have become increasingly vocal about their disdain of average citizens exercising their constitutional right to record interactions with authorities. It’s almost as if many of them feel they are above the law itself.

Now, some officers appear to be trying to evade videos of them circulating on social media through a crafty — if not exactly airtight — strategy: playing copyrighted music loudly and for long enough to be flagged by automatic censoring software on apps like Instagram.

A report has emerged of police using copyrighted music to trigger social media takedowns.

According to VICE News, a well-known LA activist went into the Beverly Hills Police Department to obtain body cam footage from a recent traffic stop. Sennett Devermont, the activist, did what he normally does during his interactions with police and live-streamed the interaction to his more than 300,000 followers on Instagram.

It all started out friendly and chill, however, things got weird when the officer started scrolling through his phone. Shortly after, Sublime’s hit from the 90s, “Santeria”, started playing and the officer stopped talking.

Sir, you’re putting on music while I’m trying to talk to you. Can you turn that off? It’s a little ridiculous,” Devermont can be heard saying, followed by a sizable pause from Sgt. Fair. “I’m just trying to see how many people are watching this. Since you didn’t answer my simple question, I tried to find it myself,” the officer finally replies from behind a Blue Lives Matter face mask, alluding to their discussion from a few moments earlier regarding how many people might be watching the livestream.

A separate encounter with the same officer plays within the same edited clip near what appears to be an active crime scene. “What — why are you playing music?” repeats Devermont, to which Sgt. Fair teasingly asks, “What? I can’t hear you.”

So is it working?

Theoretically, the strategy could make the videos subject to content flagging, or even account suspensions and bans. That said, Instagram’s content monitoring algorithms are inconsistent at best, and every upload of Devermont’s encounters remain on the social media app.

In most cases, filming on-duty police is an American right protected by the First Amendment. Law enforcement is more aware of this than most citizens, so people like Sgt. Fair and others know exactly what they are doing when they start playing music. The question is whether these are the acts of a few industrious police, or a recommended policy handed down from on high.

Take all this as a polite reminder that it is absolutely legal to film cops in situations like the ones in these videos, and you should feel free to do so if inclined. There are even apps to help you do just that, so don’t let Sublime’s “Santeria” — or any other tunes, even ones you hate — dissuade you.

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Mexican Police Officers Arrested In Connection With Migrant Massacre Near U.S.-Mexico Border

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Mexican Police Officers Arrested In Connection With Migrant Massacre Near U.S.-Mexico Border

Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

News of Mexico’s latest bloody massacre shocked the world. Nineteen bodies had been found near the U.S.-Mexico border with gun wounds and they had been burned to try and conceal the crimes.

Quickly it began to become clear that most of the victims were migrants en route to the U.S. from Central America, including many Guatemalan citizens. Now, new evidence shows that state police officers were likely involved in the murders and attempted coverup.

The massacre is the latest chapter in Tamaulipas’ history of police corruption. Most towns and cities in the state saw their municipal police forces dissolved years ago, because officers were often in the pay of the cartels. A more professional state police force was supposed to be the answer, a belief that came crashing down with the arrests announced yesterday.

Officials have arrested 12 police officers in connection to the deadly massacre.

A dozen state police officers were arrested in connection with the killings of 19 people, including Guatemalan migrants, whose bodies were found shot and burned near the U.S. border late last month.

Tamaulipas state Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica announced that all 12 officers were in custody and face charges of homicide, abuse of authority and making false statements.

The victims were found piled up in a charred pickup truck in Camargo, across the Rio Grande from Texas, in an area that has been bloodied for years by turf battles between the remnants of the Gulf cartel and the old Zetas cartel. Another burned vehicle was found at the scene and authorities say it had been seized by immigration officials in a raid that detained 66 migrants on their way to the U.S.

The motive behind the massacre is still unclear.

The attorney general did not say what motive the officers might have had, though corrupt local and state police in Mexico are often in the pay of drug cartels. It’s also common for cartels to charge migrant smugglers for crossing their territory, and kidnap or kill migrants whose smugglers have paid a rival gang.

Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero said that immigration agents tied to the case had been fired, though she provided no details on their number or their alleged role.

“These violations of the rights of migrants are absolutely unacceptable,” Sánchez Cordero said. She said no member of the security forces or immigration authority was above the law.

Since many of the victims have been identified as Guatemalan migrants, authorities are trying to find their families.

Credit: JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities have said four of the dead have been identified so far — two Guatemalans and two Mexicans. Of the 19 bodies examined by experts, 16 were found to be males, one was confirmed as female and the two others were so badly burned their gender had not yet been determined.

The forensic results confirmed the fears of families in a rural Indigenous farming community in Guatemala who have said they lost contact with 13 migrants as they traveled toward the United States.

Guatemala’s foreign affairs ministry said late Tuesday that it was working closely with Mexican authorities. In a statement, it asked that “the full weight of law be applied to those responsible for such unfortunate events that have Guatemalan families mourning.”

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