Author: Loui Mainga
In 2020, debate on increased visibility of police abuse gathered momentum in Africa following their heavy-handedness under the guise of enforcing COVID-19-related restrictions and much later, the #EndSARS protest movement in Nigeria.
Given the pivotal role social media is playing in exposing and bringing heightened awareness to police abuse, a number of videos showing police brutality across Africa went viral and disputed false narratives by the state and in some instances, on mainstream media.
We look at examples from Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria of how some of those videos fueled calls for justice and accountability and led to public outcries that finally resulted in various disciplinary actions against the perpetrators.
Three police officers were arrested and arraigned in court after a viral video depicted them dragging a woman behind a motorcycle and whipping her over an alleged theft. “Three @PoliceKE officers were yesterday arrested by @DCI_Kenya Detectives following circulation of a video depicting a woman being whipped & dragged on a motorbike in Kuresoi South Sub-County,” the Directorate of Criminal Investigations of Kenya tweeted after the video had gone viral.
THREE @PoliceKE officers were yesterday arrested by @DCI_Kenya Detectives following circulation of a video depicting a woman being whipped & dragged on a motorbike in Kuresoi South Sub-County.
The suspects are in lawful custody helping with further investigations into the matter pic.twitter.com/yx4eXA8a9D
— DCI KENYA (@DCI_Kenya) June 11, 2020
The City of Cape Town suspended two of its metro police officers who were caught on camera throwing a person with disability out of his wheelchair. Cape Town mayor Dan Plato together with the Safety and Security Director Richard Bosman suspended the officers after the video of the incident went viral on social media. In a statement the mayor said “The manner in which this situation was handled is not what we expect from our staff”.
Thanks to video evidence, young people like Treasure and Felicia got released after being unlawfully arrested during the #EndSARS protests. Lawyers who worked hard to provide free legal aid during the protests reported that the police went as far as denying they had arrested protesters until they were confronted with video evidence.
See the power of these examples with your own eyes in this video:
[Trigger Warning: Footage of Police Violence]
Beyond Africa, in other parts of the world, we see the same pattern: courageous videos helping disprove false narratives and protect human rights. In the US, video illuminated police brutality that is rampant among Black and Brown communities, a classical example being the George Floyd video that sparked a wave of protests across the country. More videos captured incidents of police brutality, and as protesters called for justice for George Floyd, they also called for accountability in the many new cases of violence and brutality that had been documented. Video also helped document the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Raull Santiago — and many activists like him in Brazil — have used video to document evidence of police brutality against the marginalized favela communities.
Going into 2021, it’s no doubt that video will continue to be instrumental in exposing police excesses and helping secure accountability.
For WITNESS guides and resources on using video to document police brutality, visit these pages:
Want to Record the Police? Know your rights
How to Film the Police Tip Sheet
How to Film the Police Video Resource