H&M has had to close stores temporarily in South Africa after several were trashed in response to an online ad, which critics deemed racist.
The image featured a black child modelling a hooded sweatshirt that said, “Coolest monkey in the jungle”.
It’s been lashed by critics with Canadian musician the Weeknd cutting ties with H&M over the image, stating he was “deeply offended” by it.
On Saturday, demonstrators in South Africa took exception to the advertisement with some seen knocking over displays and trashing stores.
According to the New York Times, the demonstrators were representing South Africa’s second-largest opposition party – Economic Freedom Fighters. They went around stores at shopping centres in Cape Town and Pretoria. According to Reuters, the group targeted six stores in Gauteng, Johannesburg.
This H&M ad has been deemed racist by many critics. Source: H&M
Police said they had to use rubber bullets to disperse protestors in one instance.
Video of one incident, uploaded to Twitter, shows several men knocking clothes off hangers. One man kicks a hanger over, pushing clothes to the floor as another cheers.
“Ninja style,” he yells as the man begins to push over mannequins.
The party’s leader, Julius Malema, said in a speech on Saturday that the EFF “make no apology” for their actions in trashing the stores, and that targeting them was “just the beginning”.
EEF protestors gather at a H&M in Cape Town. Source: Twitter/ WesternCapeofEFF
Clothes were ripped from hangers. Source: Twitter/ WesternCapeofEFF
"Every shop that undermines black people must be attended to," he said.
"It must be shut down. It must be closed."
H&M issued an apology over the advertisement, but spokesman for the EFF, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, said that was too little, too late.
"The time of apologies for racism are over; there must be consequences to anti-black racism, period!" Mr Ndlozi wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of a vandalized H&M store and video footage of chanting EFF supporters.
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Police said they were monitoring the protests, but that they had made no arrests so far.
In a statement, H&M said it had to close all stores “in the area” out of concern for “employees and customers”.
H&M said no staff had been injured but it would be monitoring the situation “closely” to open stores again.
Source: Twitter/ Floyd Shivambu
"We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable. We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image," the statement reads.
Protests over perceived corporate wrongdoing have a history of turning violent in South Africa, where some drivers for ride-hailing service Uber have had their vehicles torched over the past year by regular taxi operators.