Over the past two weeks, protesters have been gathering at SIUE and St. Louis to advocate for the endSARS movement.
To outsiders looking in, it may have seemed the endSARS movement could claim victory on Oct. 11 when it was announced the special division of the Nigerian Police would be dissolved. However, it quickly became clear to protesters their work was not yet done.
Two days after the initial announcement that Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad would be abolished, the government said it would be converted into a new unit called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT. The protest on campus occurred the same day the news broke.
The leader of the protest, senior English major Olabidemi Animashaun, of Nigeria, said a name change wasn’t what the protesters were asking for.
“We don’t want a reform of SARS called SWAT, which is going to be the same police officers who are brutalizing our brothers and sisters. That’s not what we want. They’re still not bringing justice to the people who have died,” Animashaun said.
One of the protesters at SIUE, senior biology major Mustapha Shobola, of Nigeria, said it’s important to hold protests for this cause to show the Nigerian government other countries are watching.
“They crack so much under international pressure. Social pressure is the worst thing for them. Once they know that people from other countries can see the terrible things they’re doing, they start to make changes. That’s the easiest way to get them to make changes,” Shobola said.
Shauni Burns, a senior elementary education major from Chicago, said international protests also show the protesters in Nigeria that other countries stand in solidarity with them.
“There’s people who are affected by it who might see it, and they’ll know that we’re standing with them,” Burns said. “They’ll know that they have support all over the world.”
Burns said protesters want to get rid of SARS for several reasons.
“They’re really just abusing their power. They’re taking the lives of innocent people, especially young people. They’re stopping them,” Burns said. “They’re killing people for not showing them their phone. They’re killing people because they suspect them of doing something, if they have a nice car or something.”
Animashaun said she was motivated to hold the protest on the Stratton Quadrangle by thinking about what she and her friends would have to deal with if they were currently in Nigeria.
“I have a lot of international friends. I’m a citizen, they’re not, so they eventually have to go back,” Animashaun said. “If I go to Nigeria this December, which I was planning on doing, I’m very certain I will be harassed by SARS.”
Another protester, senior criminal justice major Ukachi Nkwocha, of Chicago, said anyone who travels to Nigeria could be affected.
“I am Nigerian. Although I do live in America, it’s important to show my support … It could affect any one of us,” Nkwocha said. “If we travel to Nigeria, we could be affected by police brutality there just simply because of how we look, and who we are and how we dress.”
Animashaun also played a part in organizing another protest in St. Louis over the weekend. The protest started at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, and eventually marched to nearby Kiener Plaza Park. Animashaun said another activist for the movement contacted her after the initial protest on campus, and they set up the next one in St. Louis from there.
“I told him about how there’s no protests going on in St. Louis and we should definitely start one … We basically just joined forces with other people, other organizations,” Animashaun said.
Those interested in learning more about the movement can check out last week’s episode of Alestle After Hours, and those interested in donating to the cause can check out a GoFundMe entitled #ENDSARS for the protesters in Nigeria set up by Animashaun.