People in Nigeria have been protesting against the country's Special Anti-Robbery Squad, also known as SARS, for weeks.
SARS has long been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings and torture in the country.
The demonstrations started after footage of SARS members dragging two men from a hotel in Lagos, and beating them in the streets with clubs, circulated on social media.
On Tuesday, security forces opened fire at a peaceful protest in Lagos, Nigeria's biggest city, leaving several people dead and dozens wounded.
The unrest has prompted high-profile global figures like US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Beyoncé, and Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo to speak out.
Nigerian security forces opened fire at a peaceful protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, on Tuesday night, killing several people and wounding dozens more, according to human-rights groups.
Videos posted on social media show uniformed men with guns approaching a crowd of protesters in Lekki, an upscale suburb in Lagos, as people sang the Nigerian national anthem and waved the national flag. Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria and all of Africa.
Footage showed people fleeing and screaming as multiple shots rang out.
One witness told BBC News that soldiers had "pulled up ... and they started firing directly" at peaceful protesters.
"They were firing and they were advancing straight at us. It was chaos. Somebody got hit straight beside me and he died on the spot," he said, according to the BBC.
—Reuters (@Reuters) October 21, 2020
Amnesty International tweeted that it had received "credible but disturbing evidence" that peaceful protesters had been shot at by police.
How the protests began
Tuesday's protest was part of the weekslong movement against the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, also known as SARS.
Demonstrations started two weeks ago after a graphic video showed members of a SARS police unit dragging two men from a hotel in Lagos, and beating them in the streets with clubs, circulated on social media. Business Insider has reviewed the footage and chosen not to republish it.
SARS, which was created as a special police unit in 1992 to deal with crimes associated with robbery and firearms, has long been accused of extrajudicial killings, torture, and extortion.
In June, Amnesty International published a report that suggested the special unit's officers had carried out unlawful killings, including at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment, and extra-judicial execution between January 2017 and May 2020.
After days of anti-SARS protests, the Nigerian government announced on October 11 that SARS had been disbanded.
But protesters remained skeptical of the government's sweeping promises.
Many feared that SARS officers were just being moved to other police squads without any accountability. In many recent protests, people called on authorities to lay out clear timelines on reform.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been silent throughout the protests, called on Nigerians to have patience as police reforms "gather pace" in a Wednesday statement cited by Reuters. He did not address Tuesday night's shootings directly.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos, contradicted reports that there were many injuries and fatalities, saying that about 25 people had been wounded and just one person had died.
He described the incident as among the "darkest hours from our history as a people" and said that authorities have launched an investigation, according to The Guardian.
Sanwo-Olu also imposed a 24-hour curfew on Lagos on Tuesday night in a bid to end the protests.
Global politicians, actors, and athletes speak out
The protests and clashes have attracted global attention.
US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a statement on Tuesday, calling on Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the "violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria."
"The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy," the statement said.
2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also tweeted in support of the protesters, using their movement's hashtags #EndSARS and #StopNigeriaGovernment.
Beyoncé posted a statement on Instagram on Tuesday, saying she was "heartbroken" about what's happening in the country and that she was "working on partnerships with youth organizations to suppose those protests for change."
Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo had stronger words for the Nigerian government, calling it a "shame to the world" in a video posted to Twitter.
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