Backlash regarding a controversial promotional photo by clothing company H&M has escalated, as the chain temporarily closed all of its South African locations Saturday after protesters stormed a number of stores and trashed their inventory.
Protesters with the Economic Freedom Fighters party ransacked H&M outlet stores, knocking over clothing displays and mannequins, according to BBC News, in response to an online ad for a children’s sweatshirt that has been perceived as racist.
All 17 of H&M’s locations in South Africa have been temporarily closed, according to an emailed statement, “out of concern for the safety of our employees and customers.”
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed some of the carnage.
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The ad in question featured a black child wearing a green hoodie with the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle” on the front. The ad was considered racist by many people on social media and prompted celebrities – including music artists The Weeknd, G-Eazy and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and NBA star LeBron James – to publicly criticize H&M.
The company apologized and removed the ad Monday, and the hoodie was pulled from shelves as well. The Weeknd and G-Eazy ended their partnerships with H&M the same week.
EFF is a radical socialist political party that was started in Johannesburg in 2013. The H&M mobs were dispersed by police using rubber bullets, according to BBC.
Meanwhile, debate has continued on social media regarding the racist nature of the photo.
Terry Mango, the mother of the boy featured in the ad, apparently responded on social media saying she was had no problem with the ad.
“This is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modeled... stop crying Wolf all the time, unnecessary issue,” Mango wrote, according to Instagram screenshots provided by BET.
Others agreed with Mango, or argued that negative response to the ad – especially the EFF protests – is an overreaction.