Chattanooga Times Free Press
Protesters attacked during demonstrations
LAGOS, Nigeria — Widespread protests against Nigeria’s police have turned violent as demonstrators have been attacked by armed gangs in the streets of several cities, according to witnesses.
Since the protests began more than a week ago, at least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured, according to Amnesty International, which accuses the police of using excessive force against the demonstrators.
The violence has erupted as support for the protests has come in from Nigeria’s politicians and from the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S.
Eyewitnesses said a group of men armed with guns and machetes violently dispersed the protest early Thursday in the Ikeja neighborhood of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city.
“They were shooting and attacking people with machetes, I saw them injure someone,” Tola Afolabi, who was at the protest, told The Associated Press.
Other protesters in Lagos were attacked on Wednesday by a group of young men “who came with stones, clubs, and broken bottles,” said Nifemi Olatunde. A similar attack also happened in the capital, Abuja, on Wednesday, said witnesses.
Many demonstrators suspect the attackers were hired by police to break up the protests as the strength of the demonstrations grows across the country.
‘Only an irresponsible government will hire thugs to engage peaceful protesters,” spokesman of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement.
Youthful demonstrators leading the nationwide protests are demanding an end to alleged police brutality, which they charge includes extrajudicial killings and extortion. The protests have rocked Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with more than 196 million people, affecting the largest city, Lagos, the capital, Abuja, and other cities including Port Harcourt, Calabar, Asaba, and Uyo.
The demonstrations started last week, after a video circulated online which showed a young man being beaten, apparently by police in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, that is accused by human rights groups of widespread abuses.
“Detainees in SARS custody have been subjected to a variety of methods of torture including hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking,” Amnesty International said in a report in June.