Protests have broken out in South Africa after a local department store carried ads which denigrated Black hair while extolling white hair. 

CNN reports the advertisements were from American haircare brand TRESemmé and were shown at Clicks, a popular department store with hundreds of locations in South Africa.

The advertisements were found both in physical stores and on the Clicks website. They featured a photo of a Black woman's hair next to the words "Dry & Damaged Hair" and "Frizzy & Dull Hair."

Under the photo of the Black woman was a photo of a white woman with blonde hair with the words "Fine & Flat Hair" and "Normal Hair."

Photos of the ads side by side caused widespread outrage across the country and online. Under one of the Twitter posts calling out the ad, Clicks responded directly, apologizing for it and vowing to take all of them down. 

"Hi, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We apologise for the offense this has caused. We have removed the images and will ensure that this does not happen again," the company wrote in a statement.

They later followed that message up with another tweet under the photo.

"We would like to issue an unequivocal apology. We have removed the images, which go against everything we believe in. We are strong advocates of natural hair and are deeply sorry we have offended our natural hair community. We will put in place stricter measures on our website," the second statement said

Outrage grew over the weekend and by Sunday, the political party Economic Freedom Fighters released a statement calling for all of Clicks' stores to be shut down in the country. 

The party demanded the stores close for the week "in light of their unrepentant and perverse racism."

"Clicks participated in the public dehumanizing of Black people through an advert which presented the hair of Black women as damaged, in comparison to white hair, which is described as normal, fine and flat. the implications of this are that Black identity exists as inferior to the identity of white people," the statement said.

"It is an assertion that white standards of beauty are to be aspired to and the features of Black people represent damage, decay and abnormality. This characterization is the founding stone of anti-Black racism and the EFF will not tolerate it," the statement added.

The party contacted Clicks with a list of demands but they were rebuffed in a way they said was "condescending."

The statement calls on the store to close every branch and only reopen on September 12.

"This is because we are of the view that they are not genuine with their apology and the only way to make capitalists apologize and feel genuine remorse is for them to lose money. If Clicks does not close, our members in all the branches will shut down all 880 clicks outlets across the country from Monday, September 7 to Friday, September 11," the statement said.

"Let us wage war on the racist financial sector," the statement added. 

Vikesh Ramsunder, CEO of Clicks, said in a statement that the company has taken down all of the advertisements and suspended the people involved with producing them.

"I am deeply disappointed that we allowed insensitive and offensive images to be published on our website. This incident has highlighted the need to audit all of our 3rd party (and our own) promotional material for any implicit or explicit bias as well as the need for diversity and inclusivity training for all of our head office employees," Ramsunder said.

The store has taken down all of the TRESemmé products from their shelves and put local hair care brands in their place.

Ramsunder added that on Wednesday, Clicks will close all of its locations to "engage directly with all our store staff across the country, to provide counseling and support."

TRESemmé released its own, very brief apology for the advertisements. 

"We are very sorry that images used in a TRESemmé South Africa marketing campaign on the Clicks website promote racist stereotypes about hair. The images are not in line with the values of our brand, or of Clicks. TRESemmé South Africa apologizes for the offense these images have caused. We also apologize to the Clicks group," the statement said

But the statements did little to stop EFF from staging widespread protests at Clicks stores across the country. 

EFF leader Julius Malema said the party will not stop criticizing the store until their original demands are met.

The damage done to a few Clicks stores sparked political infighting, with other political parties criticizing EFF for urging its followers to physically destroy store locations. 

Clicks has since taken the EFF to court over the damage and on Tuesday got a judge to order the party to stop "intimidating and threatening" store workers, according to CNN. 

The situation has highlighted the longstanding problems many people have had with how beauty products in Africa and Asia are marketed. Advertisers for lotions and hair products routinely compare Black skin and hair to white skin and hair in negative ways.

Despite years of protests, outrage and anger, the advertisements can still be found widely.

Zozibini Tunzi, the current Miss Universe from South Africa, spoke out about the situation on Twitter. 

"Not only is this disrespectful to black lives, it is also evidence of an absence of representation and diversity within the organization. And we are talking about a South Africa with a population of about 80% black people (stand to be corrected). No ways," Tunzi wrote.