LONDON — Oxford Street descended into chaos briefly on Wednesday afternoon as dozens of youngsters responded to a viral TikTok video encouraging people to “rob” JD Sports and other stores at the heart of the city’s busiest shopping area.
Anticipating the event, the Metropolitan Police heightened the security level in central London, and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, urged people to ignore the “nonsense” and not to go to Oxford Street to take part in the event a day prior.
According to videos circulating on social media, despite the increased police presence, large groups of youngsters, who mostly wore black and gray tracksuits while covering their faces with masks, were running away from the police in front of H&M’s flagship store on Oxford Circus.
In one video, people can be seen clashing with the police force in front of the Reserved store.
It’s understood that following the chaotic afternoon, the Metropolitan Police made nine arrests and issued 34 people dispersal orders.
Several nearby shops, such as Vision Express and Boots, shuttered temporarily, and the traffic on the street was halted for a while due to the escalating situation.
Prior to the social media-fueled incident, Khan and Met Commissioner Mark Rowley also called on the mobile phone industry to work with City Hall and the Met to design out robberies and thefts involving mobile phones.
A statement published on Wednesday by the Metropolitan Police suggests that young people are disproportionately involved in robberies, both as victims and perpetrators, with young people aged between 14 and 20 particularly at risk of being targeted by criminals according to police data.
August traditionally has been a key month for retailers in London’s West End. With international tourists returning to London en masse this year following the global easing of the COVID-19 pandemic, a chaotic event could impact on the city’s retail footfall in the coming weeks, potentially deterring visitors.
Dee Corsi, chief operating officer at New West End Company, which represents some 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners in central London’s core shopping areas anchored by Bond, Oxford and Regent streets, told WWD earlier that footfall has been returning since the beginning of this year at about 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
She projected that the West End should get back to pre-pandemic turnover levels of 10 billion pounds within the next two years, and get a further 1.4 billion pounds by 2025, provided riots don’t continue.