‘We Don’t Tolerate Racism. H&M Is No Longer Welcome In S. Africa’: Protester

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Protests continued Tuesday in South Africa after Swedish clothing retail chain H&M temporarily closed all 17 of its stores there on Saturday following outrage over a racist image on the company’s website.

Most of stores around the country remained closed Tuesday and H&M brand canceled its local marketing campaign, The South African reported Tuesday. H&M will no longer carry out shoots and ad campaigns that were scheduled with South African agencies, according to the report.

Neighboring stores also shut their doors for fear the vandalization will spread, Times Live reported.

Protesters spoke out against an ad showing a Black child wearing a green hoodie with the words, “coolest monkey in the jungle.” It appeared on the British version of the Swedish retailer’s online store, according to CNN.

Some social media users showed images and footage of demonstrators vandalizing a store, throwing racks of clothing on the ground, merchandise in tangled heaps and security sensors toppled over.

Fallout from the racist ad made international headlines, “but South Africa seems to be where the clothing giant are taking their biggest fall,” The South African reported.

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The ad sparked outrage on social media last week after New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow drew attention to the ad on Twitter, HuffPost reported.

Demonstrators from the South African opposition political party, Economic Freedom Fighters, gathered on Saturday at six H&M locations in and around Johannesburg, according to Reuters.

A video of one of the EFF demonstrations showed protesters knocking over clothing racks and mannequins. Other videos depicted people chanting while marching around H&M stores and shopping complexes. Officials said that police officers fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters in one location, Reuters reported.

“Out of concern for the safety of our employees and customers, we have temporarily closed all stores in the area,” H&M tweeted Saturday, adding that store staff had nothing to do with the company’s “poor judgement” in producing the hoodie ad.

In a speech on Saturday, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema defended the protests, said they had not looted the stores, and warned there would be more protests:

“No one should make jokes about the dignity of black people and be left unattended to,” Malema said. “We make no apology about what the fighters did today against H&M. All over South Africa, H&M stores are closed because they called our children baboons.” The party tweeted Sunday that “not a single item” was stolen from H&M stores by protesters during the previous day’s demonstrations.

At least two celebrities — The Weeknd and G-Eazy — have ended partnerships with H&M over the ad, HuffPost reported.

H&M
Image: http://wallsdesk.com/the-weeknd-83423/

H&M apologized on Wednesday, saying the ad had been removed and the garment was no longer for sale.

“Our position is simple and unequivocal — we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry,” the statement said. “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.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters are calling for the international clothing store to leave the country, Times Live reported.

EFF regional co-ordinator Lwanele Tshwane insisted that the protest was peaceful, but the message was clear: “We don’t tolerate racism. H&M is no longer welcome in South Africa,” Tshwane said. “This is a peaceful protest but we are hear to relay our message.”