Activists stormed H&M stores to protest the brands’ advertisement for its ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ which featured a black kid model.
Four malls were overrun with the violent protesters in the latest race row to immerse the Swedish clothing retailer. The outburst escalated so high that it force police to fire rubber bullets at the crowd.
Bystanders caught in the mix were forced to flee as “chanting gangs wearing uniforms of the country’s radical opposition party swept through at H&M stores across the city, including Africa’s flagship store in the upmarket suburb of Sandton,” reports the Daily Mail.
It was clear the mass protests were planned in advance, each occurring just after stores opened to Saturday shoppers.
Social media was flooded with posts of the event, one video, reportedly filmed in Menlyn Park store, depicted red shirted protester tearing down displays, trashing the neatly hung clothes and destroying mannequins; only to be joined by another man in a white t-shirt.
Via the Daily Mail: Floyd Shivambu, spokesman for the Economic Freedom Fighters party, praised the action, saying the retailer was ‘now facing the consequences for its racism’.
H&M has not responded to the events so far, and it seems South Africa’s populous are divided on the protesters’ actions.
The global retailer, which has 4,500 stores in 62 countries, opened its first store in Africa two years ago and immediately found itself at the centre of a public backlash when it failed to feature any black models in its advertising.
Although many online users across the country welcomed the radical action, other warned that if H&M did abandon the country it would mean hundreds of jobs, mainly held by black people, would be lost.
Others pointed out that the mess and chaos caused would also be left to black workers to clean up.
The Swedish fashion chain withdrew the green £7.99 top on its UK and US websites after it caused uproar and quickly issued a statement apologising to ‘anyone it may have offended’.
However the image was still shared thousands of times on social media and drew comments from dozens of high-profile critics.
The model child’s mother had a very direct terse message branding the backlash on the advert as ‘unnecessary’ and implored critics, even the superstars, to ‘stop crying wolf’ and ‘get over it’.
She has also revealed the comments sparked a wave of online abuse and had even been called a ‘monkey’ – the same racist slur that sparked the outrage.
H&M apologized saying: ‘We understand that many people are upset about the image of the children’s hoodie. We, who work at H&M, can only agree.
‘We’re deeply sorry that the picture was taken and we also regret the actual print.
‘Therefore, we’ve not only removed the image from our channels but also the garment from our product offering.’
H&M South Africa, responding to a customer inquiry, said the offending product ‘was not available in South Africa’.