A group of activists and celebrities, including a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, have signed an open letter to Nigeria’s president demanding that he hold accountable security personnel accused of shooting anti-police brutality protesters.
The letter, published in the New York Times on Thursday to mark International Human Rights Day, comes nearly two months after what witnesses and Amnesty International say was a fatal clash in Lagos between peaceful protesters and military and police. The military and police deny shooting protesters.
Other signatories included actors Kerry Washington, Danny Glover and Mark Ruffalo, as well as writers Afua Hirsch, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Naomi Klein.
They called for a “transparent investigation” into the alleged killing of protesters by armed forces.
“We cannot stay silent,” they said.
The demonstrators had called for an end to police brutality and a much-hated unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi, an American with Nigerian parents, organized the letter after watching the protests descend into violence. Tometi said she has friends and family in Nigeria, but said it was not difficult to get others to sign on.
“We care about the issues of police brutality no matter where they’re occurring,” she said. “The violence that people have been met with is intolerable.”
“As people who have supported the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and throughout the diaspora, we cannot be silent when similar atrocities take place in African countries,” the letter said.
“We demand respect for the Nigerian people, especially as they engage in their constitutional right to protest grave injustices.”
The letter, signed by supporters including climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, also asks the government to release jailed protesters, lift a ban on protests and allow an independent human rights monitor investigation into “the actions that led to the killings at Lekki Toll Gate.”
“People are missing and people have died as a consequence of speaking out,” Tometi said. “We will not abide it.”