Protesters in South Africa stormed a number of H&M stores in retaliation for the Swedish company’s decision to run a controversial ad featuring a black child wearing a green hoodie emblazoned with the message, “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
The destructive demonstrations were organized by the Economic Freedom Fighters’ party, a radical socialist political organization with substantial power in both houses of South Africa’s parliament. Protesters targeted stores across Johannesburg and were spurred on by the image, which ran on H&M’s website.
Video uploaded to social media showed activists storming the clothing retailers and knocking over displays, pushing down mannequins, and generally spreading havoc.
“That @hm nonsense of a clothing store is now facing consequences for its racism,” posted Floyd Shivambu, a member of Parliament affiliated with the EFF party, on Twitter. “All rational people should agree that the store should not be allowed to continue operating in South Africa.”
EFF leader Julius Malema also offered words of support for activists tearing down H&M’s stores.
“We make no apology about what the fighters did today,” he said. “We are not going to allow anyone to use the colour of our skin to humiliate us, to exclude us.”
Outrage against H&M and the picture sparked boycotts in other countries, but activists stopped short of sacking retailers outside of South Africa. Singer The Weeknd ended his partnership with the brand amid the controversy.
The mother of the boy in the picture, however, blasted the kerfuffle by urging people to “stop crying wolf all the time.”
“Apartheid and racism [have] corrupted some so much that this is thought to be reasonable in response to a hoodie with the word ‘monkey’ on it,” she wrote on Twitter.