Protestors have ransacked H&M stores in South Africa amid continued anger over a “racist” promotional image on the retailer’s website.
The demonstrations were organised by the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party after the clothing chain issued a picture of a black child modelling a hoodie with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle”.
Police used rubber bullets to disperse a mob from one of six shops targeted in Johannesburg and elsewhere in Gauteng province on Saturday.
Videos on social media showed demonstrators singing songs and waving placards as they walked through one store, while clothes were pictured scattered across the floor of another.
“Several incidents of protests at H&M stores around the province have been reported,” said the South African Police Service (SAPS) on Twitter. “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.”
About 150 EFF members staged a peaceful protest at another store in Cape Town, said police.
EFF urged South African shopping malls to evict the Swedish retailer, which has apologised and removed the hoodie from sale.
Floyd Shivambu, an MP for EFF, tweeted: “That @hm nonsense of a clothing store is now facing consequences for its racism. All rational people should agree that the store should not be allowed to continue operating in South Africa. Well done to Fighters who physically confronted racism.”
He claimed the retailer had been forced to close all of its stores in South Africa on Saturday.
In a message on its South African website, the retailer apologised for the image which sparked the protests.
“We have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry,” a statement said.
NBA star LeBron James, Manchester United strike Romelu Lukaku, and singer The Weeknd were among high-profile figures who spoke out to condemn the advert.
H&M has removed the image from online promotions but it continues to be circulated on social media, where some have called for a boycott of the company.
Another user wrote: “This is racist and insensitive. This beautiful boy doesn’t even know what H&M is making out of him. A whole team shooting and no one saw what’s wrong with this.”
A H&M spokesman said: “We understand that many people are upset about the image of the children’s hoodie. We, who work at H&M, can only agree.
“We’re deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print.
“It’s obvious that our routines haven’t been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We’ll thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”
Additional reporting by agencies