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Protesters ransack South African H&M stores over 'racist' ad

by Reuters / / Source: Associated Press

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JOHANNESBURG — Protesters angered by a "racist" H&M advertisement ransacked several of the Swedish fashion group's South African stores on Saturday.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF, protesters targeted six H&M stores in the Gauteng province, where South Africa's economic hub of Johannesburg is located, tearing down shop displays and throwing clothes around, police said.

Image: An H&M clothing store is closed after members the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party stormed the store in protest of a alleged racist slogan printed on a hoodie that caused uproar on social media, in Sandton City shopping mall in Joha
An H&M at the Sandton City shopping mall in Johannnesburg is closed after members of the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party stormed the store in protest on Jan. 13, 2018.Wikus De Wet / AFP - Getty Images

In one instance, officers fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, the police added.

H&M earlier this week issued an apology for the widely criticized ad, which featured a black child modeling a sweatshirt with the slogan "coolest monkey in the jungle," and said it had removed it from all its marketing.

NBA star LeBron James, rapper Diddy and singer The Weeknd are among the celebrities who expressed shock in recent days over the image, which has been removed from online promotions but continues to be circulated on social media.

Related: Nigerian model featured in controversial dove ad defends campaign

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, spokesman for the ultra-left EFF, said that was too little, too late.

"The time of apologies for racism are over; there must be consequences to anti-black racism, period!" Ndlozi wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of a vandalized H&M store and video footage of chanting EFF supporters.

H&M South Africa did not respond to a request for comment, but its local website carried an apology for the advertisement.

Image: People protest in front of H&M store in Cape Town
An H&M clothing store in Johannesburg is closed after members of the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party stormed the store in protest on Jan. 13, 2018.Reuters

"Our position is simple, we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry," the apology read.

Police said they were monitoring the protests, but that they had made no arrests so far.

Protests over perceived corporate wrongdoing have a history of turning violent in South Africa, where some drivers for ride-hailing service Uber have had their vehicles torched over the past year by regular taxi operators.

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