Swedish fashion brand H&M has closed its shops in South Africa after heated protests in reaction to the controversial “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie advertisement carrying a racist undertone.
Six H&M stores in Johannesburg were besieged on Saturday by South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party led by Julius Malema. They broke into the stores, tore down signages and threw out clothes before the police intervened by firing rubber bullets, reports local media and the police.
#sapsGP Several incidents of protests at H&M stores around the province have been reported. At the East Rand Mall the protesters managed to enter the shop & stole several items. #SAPS members had to intervene and dispersed the group of protesters by firing rubber bullets. SW pic.twitter.com/4tX528zgW2
— SA Police Service (@SAPoliceService) January 13, 2018
H&M responded in a statement saying it has temporarily closed down its stores in the country “out of concern for the safety of our employees and customers”.
“We stress that our store staff had nothing to do with our poor judgement of producing the children’s hoodie and the image,” it added.
— H&M (@hm) January 13, 2018
Last week, H&M apologized for the ad on its UK website showing the black child model wearing a hoodie with the inscription “coolest monkey in the jungle”. It generated a barrage of criticisms worldwide and calls to boycott their stores in the U.S.
Many critics were unfazed by the apology and suggest the racist advertisement was deliberate to draw undue attention to the brand. Others described the apology as “weak”, “lame” and “non-apology”.