By Guy Taylor, Investigations Correspondent
A crowd of roughly 100 people took to the streets of Bristol yesterday, 24 October, to protest the Nigerian government’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Undeterred by the rain and ongoing pandemic, demonstrators arrived at the east side of Castle Park at 2pm. Protestors appeared upbeat and energetic, with many dancing to loud music from a speaker at the centre of the crowd.
Speaking to Epigram about the purpose of the demonstration, El Aka Mose Issie, the organiser of the event, said she wants to ‘get the message across that this is affecting all of us, it’s not just affecting Nigerian people. It is affecting everybody across the diaspora. Ending SARS and no longer killing our youths is important - because that is the future.’
Referring to SARS, she described them as ‘absolutely rubbish,’ and explained that every encounter she had had with them as a Nigerian person had been ‘almost life threatening.’
She continued, ‘it’s the fact that they are so corrupt. It is the fact that the government is not listening. It’s just nonsense, it needs to end now.’
After a brief gathering period, protestors began moving west towards St Nicholas Market, chanting ‘end SARS now!’
Moving onwards through Baldwin Street, and spreading out to block the road, the demonstration paused briefly to sing a song for the ‘lost souls’ of SARS brutality. One organiser cried out ‘for the mothers who lost their children,’ to which the crowd responded with ‘end SARS now!’
Protestors then headed to College Green to hear several different speakers.
One of those was Betty Fanu, Chair Lady of Nigerian Association Bristol, who encouraged a message of solidarity for those in Nigeria. She criticised ‘bad governance,’ and called for them to be held to account for ‘slaughtering innocent lives at peaceful demonstrations.’
Talking to Epigram after her speech, Betty spoke of her desire to get rid of the current government and let the young generation take over.
‘The leaders of tomorrow are crying and suffering, and being slaughtered like chicken,’ she said. She also called for justice for those lives lost in peaceful protesting.
Speaking about the actions of SARS, she explained how ‘they will just stop you randomly for no reason… it’s corruption.’ She described how, in some cases, police have forced people to withdraw money from a nearby bank account, before taking it for themselves.
The speakers resounding message was solidarity for Nigeria, as well as a call to end bad governance and police brutality. Precious spoke emotionally about the deaths of 69 protestors so far, and criticised police services for the destruction of CCTV during protests.
Salome, from Black Community Rising, targeted her ‘fire,’ at capitalism, saying that it is ‘a key protector of the police, a murderous institution created under the guise of protecting you, I and our people.’
She continued ‘we stand to end an armed force that has been granted the power to choose whose lives matters, whose life is worth value, who is deserving of protection and who will suffer harassment, brutality and murder.’
There was an open mic session, in which anyone from the crowd could step up and deliver a message. One speaker proclaimed that ‘the government acted like terrorists,’ when referring to the shootings at recent protests in Nigeria.
At 4:15pm, a 1-minute silence was held for all those lost to SARS so far.
The atmosphere was very hospitable, with food and drink being provided. There appeared to be only one minor incident involving a passing onlooker, trading insults with a group within the demonstration. At the request of the final speaker, Doctor Emmanuel, there was a collective round of applause for everyone who turned out.
At 4:40pm, and with one final, defiant cry of ‘End SARS now,’ the protest concluded.
Featured: Epigram / Guy Taylor
Did you go to the SARS protest? Let us know!