Anietie Ewang - Human Rights Watch Researcher, Nigeria
afọpẹ́fólúwa òjó - Artist & Berlin based #EndSARS Organiser
Napoleon Webster - Former Marikana Miner & Land and Housing Activist, South Africa
Thami Nkosi - Counter Repression Organiser, Right2Know Campaign, South Africa
Hosted by Didintle Ntsie
Produced by Anya Andrews, J Kas Merriwether and Kyla Mc Nulty
Filmed 6 November 2020 - Broadcasted 8 November 2020
This dialogue is about state-sanctioned violence and brutality in various countries, including the U.S., Nigeria and South Africa. The targeting of activists and protests is a core focus of this discussion, as well as work being done to resist police brutality and find alternatives to violence-based policing.
Episode 2, Policing and Resistance: Lexicon
Abolition is a political orientation towards the criminal justice systems which calls for complete destruction of the current systems, which function off of punitive legislation, incarceration, social and economic disenfranchisement, in favor of new systems that protect and uplift Black and brown communities. Many who adopt a lens of abolition in their work believe in collective reimagining of structures such as policing, rehabilitation, economic and social justice. The legacy of abolition dates back to the abolition efforts during Trans Atlantic slavery, which resulted in the passing of 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Abolition Resources | CRITICAL RESISTANCE
Defunding the police is a political strategy employed by organisers across the U.S. which aims to redirect and redistribute money used to support the policing infrastructure and subsequent violence towards local community programs, education and social services. Defunding the police is born out of the necessity to protect Black and brown communities who are impacted by police violence across the U.S. Organisations such as Black Visions Collective, which Miski Noir from the dialogue is a part of, and many others have called for the city of Minneapolis to defund the Minneapolis Police Department in efforts to shift power away from policing and create more space for community care efforts to emerge.
Defunding the Police Resources | AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
Reform is a political orientation towards the criminal justice system at large, which holds that correcting racial injustice is possible, incremental, and builds relationships between police and the communities they serve. Recent reform efforts are visible in national calls to hold police officers accountable for violence against communities of color.
Black Lives Matter (BLM)
Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. “In 2013, three radical Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called Black Lives Matter.” It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. Reference: Herstory, Black Lives Matter
The murders of dozens more Black people in America by police and people not hold accountable for the murders would continue, stealing the lives of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Mya Hall, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Walter Wallace, and the list goes on.
Over the last 7 years, BLM has continued to inspire nation-wide protests, continuous social media campaigns, and powerful community organizing amplified by the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, carried by young people, and spearheaded by women, queer, and transgender folk dedicated to the greater movement for Black lives. BLM has also inspired international attention, dialogue, support and protests.
About End SARS
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was formed by the Nigerian government in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes, like kidnapping and illegal gun possession. Since its inception, the unit has been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extortion.
The End SARS protests have been building in momentum since 2017 through online activism and protesters taking to the street. The movement crescendoed in October 2020 when a video allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in Delta state, surfaced online. This generated an outcry on social media, especially Twitter, where the hashtag #EndSARS began trending globally and led to protests across Nigeria, and solidarity from people and organisations across the world, including Black Lives Matter protesters in the U.S.
Days after nationwide protests began on October 8th, Human Rights Watch began reporting that the Nigerian authorities were using coercive financial measures to suppress the protests and independent media reporting, including blocking a number of protesters bank accounts, arbitrary restrictions and fines for protesters and media agencies accused of “exaggerated reporting” of police abuses. Protesters were also systematically detained and End SARs supporters were accused of supporting terrorism.
Despite and during this “crackdown”, national and international protests continued to swell, and on the 11th of October the Nigerian Police Force announced that the SARS unit would be disbanded and integrated into other police units following “psychological tests”. No official and explicit steps were taken to hold the SARS officers to account for past abuses, or to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the recent crackdown on protesters.
The protests continued, and on the 20th of October 2020 hundreds of protesters were shot at with live ammunition while they were peacefully gathered at a toll gate in Lekki, Nigeria. This has come to be known as The Lekki Massacre and the government has refused to take responsibility or answer the question of who ordered the shooting, despite the mounting evidence that the act was perpetrated by Nigerian soldiers who arrived, barricaded the protesters in, and began shooting indiscriminately.
While SARS remains disbanded, The Nigerian Police Force is still being accused of brutality, human rights organisations continue to advocate for accountability for The Lekki Massacre and the Nigerian government continues to silence activists and news agencies; going as far as to indefinitely ban Twitter use on June 4th 2021.
The Marikana Massacre
The Marikana Massacre took place on 16 August 2012, in the town of Marikana in the North West province of South Africa. The event saw police surround protesting miners and open fire on them with live ammunition, killing 34 miners and seriously injuring more than 70 others. The incident was the culmination of weeks of building unrest. Instead of meeting with the protesting miners, the mining management and ownership of the mine, Lonmin, refused to speak to them. The miners were also disgruntled with their labour unions and were organising as a community instead.
After the tragedy took place a commission was set up to investigate and suggest outcomes - Napoleon Webster, featured in the Policing and Resistance episode, was a member of the Marikana Commission. Following the commission, Napoleon called out then president Jacob Zuma for not releasing the findings of the Marikana Commission - something which the president later did. Napoleon also called out the former deputy president and current president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, for having “blood on his hands”.
Ramaphosa was instrumental in ordering the violent attack on miners. He is a shareholder and non-executive director at Lonmin mines; the mines that were being protested against for underpaying workers and not delivering on promises to improve living and working conditions for workers.
In December 2016, Napoleon, along with 12 other activists were, were charged with the murder of an ANC councilor. All the accused pleaded not-guilty. The case was eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence. The case relied on the inconsistent testimony of one “witness”, and went against multiple eye witness accounts that saw Napoleon at the time the crime was occuring. He received national and legal support when he was arrested, and argued that he was targeted for his activism against the government and Lonmin mines.