Rihanna, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are among the many celebrities who have come out to support protests against police brutality in Nigeria. But protesters hit out when Beyoncé spoke up. Why?
Protesters against police brutality say that on Tuesday night in Lagos men in army fatigues closed in on them and shot at them while they sang the national anthem, something the army denies as “fake news”.
The irony a chord across the world. South African comedian Trevor Noah said: “Just like we’ve seen in the US, the police in Nigeria are responding to protests about police brutality with more police brutality.
Just like we've seen in the U.S., the police in Nigeria are responding to protests about police brutality with more police brutality. pic.twitter.com/j1K5Ydxefm
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 21, 2020
A host of international A-list of celebrities showed their support for protesters.
Rihanna tweeted a picture of a blood-soaked Nigerian flag.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) October 20, 2020
Nikki Minaj talked directly to protesters in her tweet in solidarity, saying: “Your voice is being heard”.
Standing with & praying for the brave young people of Nigeria who are on the front lines of this senseless violence. Your voice is being heard. 🇳🇬 #EndSARS
— Mrs. Petty (@NICKIMINAJ) October 20, 2020
And then Beyoncé’s statement came.
Through her charity, BeyGood, she said: “I am heartbroken to see the senseless brutality taking place in Nigeria… we are collaborating with coalitions to provide emergency healthcare, food and shelter.”
A message from Beyoncé. pic.twitter.com/5Ng7JF2stf
— BeyGOOD (@BeyGood) October 21, 2020
This did not go down well.
“Who told Beyoncé that we are hungry?” commented digital entrepreneur Papi Jay.
Who told Beyonce that we are hungry? Sis just lend your voice like Riri and co.
— Papi Jay (@JohnMarsAuto) October 21, 2020
That sentiment was echoed by skincare vendor Mercy Ehimare. “Can somebody tell this woman we are not hungry??????? We need support to fight for our existence,” she replied.
Can somebody tell this woman we are not hungry???????
We need support to fight for our existence
— Mercy It Is (@MercyEhimare1) October 21, 2020
Tweeters were offended that Beyoncé appeared to assume they were poor.
That certainly wasn’t how the Nigerian press described the people who started the protests online.
They opted instead to refer to them as “social media influencers”.
In the early days of the protests, the BBC’s Nduka Orjinmo described the people marching on the streets as “mostly comfortably-off young people, some with dyed hair, pierced noses and tattooed bodies”.
BBC Nigeria correspondent Mayeni Jones notes that, while now she is now seeing a more socially mixed crowd at protests in Lagos, the people who started the protests online were “middle-class kids”.
They were people like media strategist Rinu Oduala, who had persuaded other protesters to spend the night outside government house in Lagos on 7 October.
What’s more, is that they had already raised funds among themselves to cover the costs of the protest, writes Nigerian author Naomi Ndifon, in Black Women Radicals.
So at this point, the protesters only really wanted their message against police brutality amplified.
Beyoncé has more than 15 million followers on her personal Twitter account – a tweet from that account would reach a lot of people.
But they were left frustrated, says a commenter on Beyoncé’s post dor_gd, who points out that she only supported protesters on her charity account.
Exactly..she couldn't even post that on her main twitter account that has more than 15M followers for the message to reach more people.
But when it comes to profiting off black people and nigerians she will be the first🚮😭😭🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡#EndBadGoveranceInNigeria #BuhariResignNow
— ONLINE protester🤍🍂🤍…🇳🇬🇹🇿🇰🇪 (@dor_gd) October 21, 2020
Critics also said Beyoncé turned up late to the protests.
The protests had started weeks before and she was in the second wave of celebrities showing their support.
People like Star Wars actor John Boyega, Arsenal footballer Mesut Özil and rapper Kanye West had tweeted their support more than a week before her.
Three years ago Nigeria’s police chief re-organised SARS after public condemnation about the violence that came with their operations. That change has done nothing for Nigerians and today many are still in danger. #EndSarsProtests
— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) October 9, 2020
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) October 11, 2020
I stand with my Nigerian brothers and sisters to end police brutality, the government must answer to the peoples cries #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria
— ye (@kanyewest) October 12, 2020
By the time she tweeted, the peaceful protests had already turned bloody.