'SNL': H.E.R. Sneaks in Anti-Police Brutality Message During Performance

During this weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live, H.E.R. showed support for the #EndSARS movement, a campaign to end police brutality in Nigeria. While she sang her new single "Hold On," the R&B singer's backup vocalists and band members wore shirts with the hashtag. H.E.R., whose real name is Gabi Wilson, has used her music to take a stand on other issues, especially with her summer single "I Can't Breathe."

The #EndSARS campaign calls for the Nigerian government to shut down the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) task force. Protests in the country have been on the rise, blaming the squad for brutality, extortion, and harassment reports NBC News. The demonstrations earned international attention after a video allegedly showing squad members shooting a man in the state of Delta. Witnesses also claimed soldiers shot at protests who gathered in Lagos. Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu confirmed one person was killed but said it was an isolated incident and did not say if the deceased was a protester.

According to Amnesty International, 12 peaceful protesters were killed during protests in Lagos on Oct. 20. Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, called the shootings "extrajudicial executions" and called for an investigation. "Authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families," he said.

H.E.R. is not the first musician to raise awareness for the #EndSARS movement. Singer Rihanna showed her support in an Oct. 20 tweet. "I can't bate to see this torture and brutalization that is continuing to affect nations across our planet," Rihanna wrote. "It's such a betrayal to the citizens, the very people put in place to protect are the ones we are most afraid of being murdered by! My heart is broken for Nigeria man!! It is unbearable to watch! I'm so proud of your strength and not letting up on the fight for what's right!"

The 23-year-old H.E.R. protested police brutality at home as well with her song "I Can't Breathe," released just days after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody in late May. The song's video won the Video for Good award at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. When she first performed the song for the iHeartRadio Living Room Concert Series, H.E.R. said it was not hard to write the track's lyrics since it "came from a conversation of what’s happening right now, what’s been happening, and the change that we need to see." Music is "powerful when it comes to change and when it comes to healing and that’s why I wrote this song, to make a mark in history," she said in June. "And I hope this song does that."