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H&M stores attacked in South Africa

January 13, 2018

Several stores belonging to Swedish clothing company H&M have been attacked and trashed by members of Economic Freedom Fighters. They were protesting an advertisement by the firm widely seen as racist.

Young black model wearing the controversial hoodie
The H&M online ad that has stirred controversyImage: picture-alliance/AP/H&M

Shots were fired at the East Rand H&M store after a group of EFF protesters dressed in their red regalia forced their way into Sandton, Menlyn Park and East Rand H&M retailer stores. According to South Africa's daily news24, police engaged the protesters, who did not want to be caught on camera.

The Menlyn store was shut after it was completely trashed by the angry protesters. The company later on Saturday temporarily closed all of its stores in South Africa.

H&M caused an outcry after an advert featuring a young black model wearing a hoodie with the words "Coolest monkey in the jungle" went viral on social media. Many people accused the international chain store of racism.

South Africa's Eyewitness News reported that mannequins and clothes were strewn all over the floor in the malls where the protests took place. Other nationwide demonstrations also took place in Mall of The South, Mall of Africa, Clearwater and East Rand Mall. Independent Online reported that a Gateway store was also closed as a result of the protests.

Following Saturday's vandalism, EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu issued a stern message via Twitter, vowing to that "racism must fall."

Apology not enough?

H&M apologized this week for the advertisement and assured its customers that the hooded sweatshirt will be completely removed from stores. It also promised to open an investigation and vowed that such an incident would never happen again.

"We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image," the company said in a statement.

An H&M spokesperson, Amelia-May Woudstra, said the company was sorry for the ad. "We sincerely apologize for offending customers with an image of a printed hooded top that was published on selected global online channels," she said.

Musician The Weeknd cut his ties with H&M, the world's second-largest clothing group, after the Canadian pop star saw the advertisement. He had previously promoted two H&M collections.