Chattanooga Times Free Press

Pro­test­ers at­tacked dur­ing demon­stra­tions

- BY SAM OLUKOYA

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.

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