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Protestors ransack H&M shops in South Africa over ‘racist’ advertisement

Video footage showed demonstrators trashing displays, pulling down clothes rails and toppling mannequins.

Swedish multinational clothing retail company H&M on Saturday temporarily closed several stores in South Africa after protestors ransacked several of its outlets over a controversial advertisement featuring a black child, The New York Times reported.

On January 8, the clothing giant was accused of racism by social media users after it released an advertisement of a black child wearing a hoodie that said “coolest monkey in the jungle”. As the controversy raged, the company altered the listing on its website, removing the black child and simply putting up the hoodie for sale.

H&M South Africa on Friday had apologised following the controversy. “We have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally,” the company had said.

On Saturday, demonstrators belonging to the Economic Freedom Fighters – South Africa’s second-largest opposition party – marched to protest against the company at its outlets. Video footage showed protestors trashing displays, pulling down clothes rails and toppling mannequins.

Protests were reported at shopping centres in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg among other places.

South African Police said, “At the East Rand Mall, the protestors managed to enter the shop and stole several items.” It added that the police had to resort to firing rubber bullets to disperse the mob.

H&M said out of concern for the safety of its employees and customers, all the stories in the area had been closed. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again,” the company said in a statement, according to The New York Times. “We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable. We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image.”

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