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Arguments for socialism :: Solidarity
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The organisers of the Birmingham protest against Nigeria's notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) police units emphasised that the event was peaceful, with no "attacks on anybody's character". However, when the mic was opened, the anger burst out.
One after another, Nigerian workers vented their rage at the brutality of the Nigerian state. The crowd of 200 demanded the violent and militarised Sars police unit be disbanded, and loudly sang 'Solidarity Forever'.
I spoke to deliver a message of solidarity on behalf of the Socialist Party, warmly welcomed by the crowd. I said it was a disgrace that the Nigeria government is failing to provide the very basics of life for the majority, given the immense natural resources and human talent posessed by Nigeria.
A spontaneous chant of "Buhari out" began after I demanded the resignation of President Mohammadu Buhari.
"We've started this, and there's no going back", remarked one speaker at the 24 October protest.
60 joined the protest, organised by the Nigerian Student Society at Leeds University. There were placards against police violence, to dismantle Sars and Swat police units, and against Buhari.
There was huge anger at the police massacre at Lekki bridge, and Buhari's attempts to deny the incident ever happened. The anger extended far beyond this particular issue, which is the straw that broke the camel's back.
We reproduced the text of a leaflet distributed by our sister party - Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) - on the streets of Nigeria.
One of the rally speakers read out the demands being raised by the Youth Rights Campaign - launched by DSM - giving their own explanation as to why each one was vital.
Over 100 people turned up to the Northampton demo on 24 October.
One of the organisers took some of the Socialist Party leaflets and handed them out to the other organisers. The organisers called for the police killings to end, and to bring down the Buhari government.
When people saw what we had to say, they were coming over asking for our leaflets. The 100 leaflets we printed ran out. Even when we ran out, demonstrators came looking for more.
After we mentioned that there was an article about Nigeria in our paper, the Socialist, ten people bought a copy. And we've already contacted the six people we met interested in joining the Socialist Party.
The fury was palpable at the protest in central London on 21 October.
One protester told me she had lost three sisters in Nigeria, citing police banditry and unsafe roads. She sent her nephew an iPhone when he got into university. But this resulted in a high-speed chase by Sars officers - down broken, unmaintained roads - to steal it.
Many police officers outside the brutal Sars/Swat force endure appalling conditions. Another protester told me that Nigerian police can sleep in one-room accommodation with families of five.
There is a barely functioning electric grid, and police stations can't even afford petrol for their generators all of the time. Members of the public wishing to give statements have to buy their own pens and paper.
Protesters in London on 23 October blamed the rich in Nigeria and elsewhere for Nigeria's poverty and lack of basic services. One protester said: "Imagine having to fight for your life from birth."
Despite the Covid risk, the police wanted us to be tightly packed together on the pavement. But the protest spread out onto the street in front of the Nigerian High Commission, then marched to Downing Street.
Another protester, Naomi, said: "It's time for them to give power to the people."
Naomi was also angry about free school meals (see front page) and organised a protest on that issue. "Children deserve to eat, but the government does not care. Boris is prioritising his friends and himself."
Many of the 100 in attendance had family or friends in Lagos, where protestors peacefully sitting and singing the national anthem were butchered.
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Article dated 28 October 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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