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Twitter, Google Back Nigerians Protesting Police Brutality

Loni Prinsloo, Ruth Olurounbi and Tope Alake
·2 mins read

(Bloomberg) --

Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have come out in support of Nigerians protesting a controversial police unit that became infamous for harassing young workers in the country’s burgeoning technology industry.

Dorsey sent a series of tweets using the hashtag #ENDSARS, which relates to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad at the center of the demonstrations, including one that showed supporters how to donate to the cause. Google Africa posted that it strongly opposes “oppression, brutality and intimidation,” saying a “fair and impartial police force is a critical element of a stable society.”

The interventions came as the protests entered their 11th day, with Nigeria’s army saying it’s prepared to help authorities maintain law and order. At least 10 people have died, even though the government has prohibited the use of force against marchers, ordered the release of all arrested participants and disbanded the SARS unit.

The uprising began after a video emerged on social media purportedly showing the killing of a civilian by the police squad. SARS was known to target technology workers with jumped up accusations of internet fraud. Dorsey, 43, visited Nigerian cities last year to meet with various tech startups, while Google has an office in Lagos, the commercial capital.

The demonstrations overshadowed the $200 million buyout of Paystack, a Lagos-based startup, by U.S. payment-services starlet Stripe.

“We don’t want to draw attention away from the very serious conversations happening at all levels about police violence in Nigeria,” Paystack co-founder and CEO Shola Akinlade said on a blog post. “As a member of the tech community (a frequent target of the attacks) this matters deeply to me and to everyone at Paystack.”

Support was also offered by U.S. rapper Kanye West and Star Wars actor John Boyega.

(Updates with Paystack comment in penultimate paragraph)

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