Six H&M stores in South Africa were trashed by protesters from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party Saturday after the retailer removed an ad that sparked outrage on social media, reports eNCA.
H&M faced backlash from EFF this week for posting an ad on its website for a child’s sweater that was seen as racist. The picture depicted a black child modelling a green sweater bearing the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
The EFF protesters targeted six H&M stores in the Gauteng province, where South Africa’s economic hub of Johannesburg is located, tearing down shop displays and throwing clothes around, police said.
In one instance, officers fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, the police added.
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Following the negative reaction to the ad, the retailer issued a statement to USA Today apologizing to any who “may have been offended.”
“This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended. The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.” the statement read.
“Our position is simple, we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry,” H&M added in a post on its Facebook page.
However, according to spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, the EFF wasn’t prepared to make amends.
“The time of apologies for racism are over; there must be consequences to anti-black racism, period!” Ndlozi wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of a vandalized H&M store and video footage of chanting EFF supporters.
Canadian musician, The Weeknd, cut ties with the Stockholm-based company amid the controversy, tweeting that he “woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with H&M anymore.”
The singer began his collaboration with H&M in 2017.
-With files from Reuters.