H&M (Hennes and Mauritz) stores in South Africa will remain temporarily closed as protesters attacked several of its stores in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town on Saturday in response to a racist ad showing a black child wearing a sweatshirt with a caption ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle.’
The ad sparked public outrage. NBA star LeBron James, rapper Diddy and singer The Weeknd were among the celebrities who expressed shock.
The Swedish clothing giant apologised and removed the image and the sweatshirt from shops.
But activists of the opposition political party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were not satisfied. On Saturday, they attacked H&M stores across the country. As protesters began ransacking an H&M store in East Rand Mall in Johannesburg, police used rubber bullets to disperse them.
Addressing EFF’s members, leader and founder of the party Julius Malema said they will not allow anyone to use the colour of their skin to humiliate or exclude them. He dismissed allegations that he was instigating protesters to attack H&M stores.
PR and communications manager for H&M South Africa, Amelia-May Woudstra said stores in the country have been temporarily closed adding that they will be reopened when the situation comes back to normal.
In 2014, Spanish fashion chain Zara was forced to apologise and remove stripped pyjama tops with a yellow star for toddlers following Jewish protests as they resembled concentration camp uniforms.
In October last year, personal care brand Dove apologised and removed a racist ad from its Facebook page.
The ad showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman, suggesting that black skin is dirty and white skin is clean.