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Amid calls for police reform in US, Yinka Faleti champions #EndSARS movement in Missouri

  

It’s a movement that began several thousand miles away in Nigeria, but for Yinka Faleti, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, it’s one that should resonate for all Missourians. 

Faleti, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, participated in a 90-minute #EndSARS vigil in St. Louis Saturday evening along with dozens of other Missourians. #EndSARS is a grassroots movement born in Nigeria to protest police brutality.

“When people see that police brutality is happening in a country like Nigeria — and quite frankly, has been happening — [they recognize] police brutality is a function not of good apples and bad apples, but it’s a function of dysfunctional systems,” Faleti told The Missouri Times. “The systems need to be changed, and I think what’s happening in Nigeria just proves that.” 

Specifically, the #EndSARS hashtag referred to Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad and called for its disbandment. Amnesty International has accused the police group of “torture and other forms of ill-treatment.”  The #EndSARS movement has grown into a global crusade, drawing the support of celebrities such as Beyoncé and H.E.R. (who used a recent “Saturday Night Live” performance to draw attention to it). 

For Faleti, it’s personal. He still has family who live in Nigeria and give him “real-time updates” on what’s happening back home. But the West Point graduate said the movement should also strike a chord with Missourians — particularly as the state, much like the rest of the U.S., is struggling with the need to balance support for law enforcement and calling for an end to racial profiling and police brutality. 

Yinka Faleti, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, participated in a 90-minute #EndSARS vigil in St. Louis on Oct. 24 along with dozens of other Missourians. (PROVIDED)

“Another lesson we can learn from this is what Dr. King so eloquently said when he walked the earth: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” Faleti said. “What we haven’t had in Missouri — particularly in the Secretary of State’s Office but with other electeds, too, in the last several years — are leaders of character, integrity, and courage. When you’re a leader, you’re called not only to perform your specific duty, but you’re called to be a leader generally. There are only six statewide electeds in the state … and those people have a duty to call out injustice wherever it may occur that affects the people of this state and this country and possibly even the world.” 

Flanked by the Gateway Arch Saturday, Faleti drew comparisons between the #EndSARS movement and the massive protests seen in the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, a Black Minnesota man, at the hands of law enforcement officers in May. 

“Let’s be careful to not believe this is a problem in Nigeria alone. In this country, the world witnessed former police Officer Derek Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and murder him in broad daylight,” he said. “The problem is not a few bad apples. If the tree continues to produce bad apples, maybe there’s something wrong with the tree. You have to get to the roots to fix the problem.” 

Faleti is challenging Republican incumbent Jay Ashcroft in the race for secretary of state next week. Faleti reported more than $436,000 cash on hand as of the latest filing reports while Ashcroft had more than $408,000.