A Toronto boutique store faced a barrage of objection Wednesday because of an advertisement that played on Black Lives Matter for its Black Friday sale.
According to Vice, The Serpentine sent an email promoting sales of 20-40 percent off clothing online and in store. It featured a photo of BLM protesters with the hashtag #BlackFridaysMatter in red. The Serpentine posted the same image on its Instagram account Nov. 23.
“All Sales Can’t Matter Until Black Friday Sales Matter,” the email read, flipping the script on BLM’s phrase, “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.” It continued, “Mobilize locally, support globally, 20-40% in store only. Friday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 27.”
Additionally, in the fine print, the email noted it was “Brought to you and approved by Black Stephen,” referring to the store’s co-owner.
According to CTV News, Instagram users reacted furiously to the social media ads. One commenter demanded, “You don’t get to sell clothes off the backs of a movement.”
Black Lives Matter member Ravyn Wngz told the station the appropriation of the slogan is troublesome.
“It’s a very hard moment when you see your pain, everything you’ve been working for, used as profit,” he said.
Still, The Serpentine responded harshly before finally deleting the social media posts Wednesday afternoon.
“For starters, one of the owners and creative director is Black,” the response said in part. “The color palette of our product assortment is dark in nature and predominantly black. This post is consistent with previous campaigns that are always ‘play on words’ about different topics.”
“We guess if you are just trying to speak to the fact that people mob stores on Black Friday for deals, you’re an a–hole,” the store’s comment ended.
But BLM Toronto committee member Hashim Yussuf told Global News the store shouldn’t joke with a “play on words.”
“Our movement is not something to be made fun of,” he said. “This is a matter of life and death for many people. This is a matter of basic human rights.”
The store’s other owner, Paul, a white man, indignantly responded this way to Vice’s request for comment: “We’re not going to address something so stupid,” he said. “It’s not any kind of ploy to sell clothing. We sell the highest-end brands in the city and we have great customers, Black, white, Chinese, Indian, every culture.”
Despite Paul’s fiery response, The Serpentine ultimately apologized for the “confusion and frustration” many felt over the ad. It reiterated the flier’s joking nature.