Members of the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters stormed into six South African H&M stores Saturday, in a protest that ended in stores closing after being ransacked and trashed.
Videos posted on social media showed activists trashing displays, kicking mannequins over and pushing racks of clothes to the floor during the protests. Police made no arrests, but in one of the stores, officers intervened, dispersing the crowd using rubber bullets.
The destruction is in response to the Swedish clothing company advertising a black child model wearing a hoodie with the inscription “coolest monkey in the jungle,” an ad that sparked complaints against the company and triggered accusations of racism.
A statement by H&M on its Twitter account said the company was very concerned with the safety of employees and customers, so it closed the stores in the areas of protest. Also, the company apologized on its Twitter account and in a statement on its website: “We have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry. We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are unacceptable and not in line with our values.”
EFF leader Julius Malema defended the group’s protests, saying the humiliation of black people should not be allowed to continue.
“No one should make jokes about the dignity of black people and is left unattended to. We make no apology about what the fighters did today against that store called H&M,” Malema said, while addressing the EFF ground forces forum in Westenburg in Polokwane.
By Susan McFarland