Protesters in South Africa Trash H&M Store Over Racist Ad

A vandalised H&M store is seen in Sandton, South Africa, January 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media.
Courtesy of TWITTER/ @ABRAMJEE /via REUTERS

An apology from international retail giant H&M was not enough to quell the widespread anger over a promotional image that many have described as racist because it shows a black child wearing a sweatshirt with the words, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.”

Groups of protesters in South Africa answered the call from an opposition party to demonstrate at six H&M stores in the country. Many of the protesters were dressed in red that is the signature of the Economic Freedom Fighters as they proceeded to ransack some of the stores, tearing down displays and throwing clothes around in the process.

In at least one store, police fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, some of whom were allegedly stealing clothing.

Floyd Shivambu, a leader of the EFF, posted several pictures on Twitter of ransacked H&M stores, writing: “All rational people should agree that the store should not be allowed to continue operating in South Africa.”

H&M has closed all its stores in the country temporarily out of concern for the safety of employees and customers. The company issued a long apology that is displayed prominently on its South Africa website:

We agree with all the criticism that this has generated – we have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists. We appreciate the support of those who have seen that our product and promotion were not intended to cause offence but, as a global brand, we have a responsibility to be aware of and attuned to all racial and cultural sensitivities – and we have not lived up to this responsibility this time.

This incident is accidental in nature, but this doesn’t mean we don’t take it extremely seriously or understand the upset and discomfort it has caused.

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SOURCE: Slate, Daniel Politi