Activists in South Africa have trashed H&M stores in protest at the clothing retailer’s advert for its 'coolest monkey in the jungle' hoodie that featured a black child model.
Violence spilled over in at least six malls as the latest race row to engulf the Swedish brand escalated, forcing the police to fire rubber bullets at protesters.
Innocent shoppers and bystanders were forced to flee as chanting gangs wearing uniforms of the country’s radical opposition party swept through at H&M stores across the city, including Africa’s flagship store in the upmarket suburb of Sandton
The store in South Africa was trashed in protest at H&M's advert featuring a black child wearing a hoodie with the words 'coolest monkey in the jungle'
A red shirted activist is seen pulling over a display at the Menlyn Park store
The wave of the mass store invasions, which had clearly been well organised in advance, began shortly after the stores opened for Saturday trading, with pictures and videos of the chaos lit up social media.
In one video, claimed to have been taken at the Menlyn Park store, one of red shirted activists is seen trashing displays, kicking over and pulling down clothes rails as well as pushing over mannequins.
He was then joined by another activist in a white t-shirt and the pair continued to trash the clothes.
Floyd Shivambu, spokesman for the Economic Freedom Fighters party, praised the action, saying the retailer was ‘now facing the consequences for its racism’.
The H&M store in the Menlyn Mall after it was attacked by the Economic Freedom Fighters
Police were forced to fire rubber bullets at protesters as the violence escalated
The Swedish retailer, which has 4,500 stores in 62 countries, opened its first store in Africa two years ago
H&M found itself at the centre of a public backlash when it failed to feature any black models in its advertisin
Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters staged a protest outside an H&M store at the Sandton mall in South Africa
The brand has yet to respond to today’s threats to close, but South Africa’s twitter community appeared divided over the action, which police are attempting to contain.
The global retailer, which has 4,500 stores in 62 countries, opened its first store in Africa two years ago and immediately found itself at the centre of a public backlash when it failed to feature any black models in its advertising.
Although many online users across the country welcomed the radical action, other warned that if H&M did abandon the country it would mean hundreds of jobs, mainly held by black people, would be lost. Others pointed out that the mess and chaos caused would also be left to black workers to clean up.
The Swedish fashion chain withdrew the green £7.99 top on its UK and US websites after it caused uproar and quickly issued a statement apologising to 'anyone it may have offended'.
The advert featured child model Liam Mango. His mother has revealed she suffered online abuse after the controversy blew up
However the image was still shared thousands of times on social media and drew comments from dozens of high-profile critics.
Manchester United footballer Romelu Lukaku, basketball player LeBron James and music mogul P Diddy are among the celebrities who slammed the advert as shoppers called for a boycott of the chain.
The campaign group Models Of Diversity, which pushes for more diversification across the industry, said H&M should be 'ashamed'.
But Terry Mango, mother of the child model, five-year-old Liam, branded the backlash to the image 'unnecessary' and urged critics, including global superstars, to 'stop crying wolf' and 'get over it'.
She has also revealed the comments sparked a wave of online abuse and had even been called a 'monkey' - the same racist slur that sparked the outrage.
H&M also took to Instagram to express further apology, saying: '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.
'Therefore, we've not only removed the image from our channels but also the garment from our product offering.'
Responding to a customer inquiry H&M South Africa said the offending product ‘was not available in South Africa’.
After police successfully dispersed the protestors, the EFF's firebrand leader Julius Malema says H&M stores in South Africa were targeted 'because they called our children baboons'.
H&M also decided to close its South African stores in the wake of the invasions for 'the safety of our staff and customers'.
Mr Malema told a rally, 'We are teaching them [H&M] a lesson, we are not going to allow anyone to use the colour of our skin to humiliate us, or to exclude us. We are black and we are proud. We are black and we are beautiful. We are black and we are not ashamed of being black.'
He denied sending EFF supporters to trash the stores.
'They went because they wanted to go. To say people were sent, it means you are undermining black people that they cannot think on their own.'
Spokeswoman for H&M South Africa, Amelia-May Woudstra said: 'What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers. None of our staff or customers have been injured,' she said.
She said they would continue to monitor the situation and would open the stores as soon as everything was safe again.
'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.'