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Tik Tok Oxford Street: a lawless gathering or 'summer argy-bargy.'

Chris Hobbs attends the media hyped "mass shoplifting" event in Oxford Street as an observer of events.

Photo:DRN images

Photo:DRN images

Date - 14th August 2023
By - Chris Hobbs
12 Comments 12 Comments}

The events that took place in and around Oxford Street last Wednesday generated substantial media interest and social media comment. The Alliance for Police Accountability made light of the incident referring to it on twitter as a ‘bit of summer argey bargey,’ and a ‘working class right of passage.’ It went on to suggest that this was the ‘demonisation of black youth two weeks before Carnival.’ The tweet has since been deleted.

This ‘much ado about nothing,’ view was echoed by some on the social media while sections of the mainstream media seemed to suggest that the incidents which took place were akin to those that could be seen in the violent X-rated movie; The Purge.

In fact, the reality was that events of the day were somewhere between the two and possibly at the lower end of the spectrum yet it would be foolish to totally disregard that which actually took place.

Influential events?

This and other similar ‘calls to arms,’ may have been ‘influenced,’ by the recent serious disorder in New York which emanated from ‘influencer’ Kai Cenat who announced on social media channels that he would be giving away Play Stations in New York’s Union Square. On the afternoon of Friday the 4th of August, thousands of young people turned up and this in turn resulted in serious disorder and 65 arrests. Cenat too was arrested and will have to appear in court.

Another possible contributary factor occurred two days before the New York disturbances, Essex police found they had a problem on their hands when a ‘beach party announcement,’ again believed to have emanated from social media, attracted between 300 and 400 youths to Southend seafront. Unedifying scenes appeared on social media and Essex police moved quickly to deal with the situation which nevertheless caused reported concerns amongst beachfront business owners and visitors.

In respect of Oxford Street, a Tik Tok announcement proclaiming some sort of looting attack on JD Sports was mentioned at a public meeting held by the Met in Ealing the day before. The Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, stated that the Met was aware and prepared.

The following day, I decided to make the short journey ‘uptown.’ Whilst waiting for the train at my local station, I overheard two youths discussing the possible scenario in Oxford Street and that ‘bunking the barriers’ at Paddington would be more problematic than elsewhere.

On reaching Oxford Circus, predictably there were BTP officers at the ticket gates. It was, for those officers, like shooting fish in a barrel with a number of ticketless youths being confronted, detained and searched. In Oxford Street itself JD Sports was ‘well defended,’ with three police carriers parked outside.


All seemed quiet but gradually there was a build-up of youths at the Oxford Circus junction consisting of both males and females, many of whom looked of school age with a few older late teens. At least half of the gathering crowd appeared to be girls with many smartly and fashionably dressed.

Suddenly it was clear something was occurring as youths began running and officers moving. This, it would seem, was the one incident of conflict which was captured on mobile phone footage and showed officers grappling with youths. The word was that this was due to some individuals attempting to enter the Microsoft store which is located on one of the four corners of Oxford Circus. Suddenly, the area seemed populated by officers searching a number of youths, several of whom were handcuffed.

The atmosphere gradually settled as more youths arrived. Another incident, however seemed inevitable and yells and screams duly heralded a stampede. The cause became obvious as running up Portland Place towards the BBC was female officer resplendent in a high viz jacket apparently chasing a suspect. The crowd followed with hundreds running along Portland Place together with anxious officers. I never did find out the result of the foot pursuit but my guess is that the object of the officer’s attention managed to make good his or her escape.

Screams, hysteria and the TSG to the rescue.

The crowd of young people eventually returned to the vicinity and what followed was a strange repetition of incidents which would have intrigued those with an in-depth knowledge of crowd behavioural psychology. The girls would gather together in a tight group numbering up to a hundred. Suddenly some sort of excitement would grip the group illustrated by a multitude of screams as a form of mass hysteria took hold. Mobile phones would be produced as if, and perhaps there was, a ‘celebrity’ attracting the attention. This would then be followed by a surge of a few yards or a stampede.

On the outside of the group of girls were the boys, some of whom were ‘masked up,’ and in possession of gloves as suggested by the originator of the Tik Tok message. Once the stampede began the girls led and the boys followed.

The second stampede saw the initial screaming and hysteria and then took a short ‘round the block,’ route. I followed at walking pace when suddenly the crowd turned and ran towards me still screaming. The result was some spectacular if jerky footage which I was later accused of faking.

I continued walking towards Oxford Street and saw TSG officers escorting two ladies in hijabs with another officer pushing a pushchair which contained an infant.

It later transpired that the mob had actually run into the two ladies causing the pushchair, complete with child, to overturn. TSG officers saw what was occurring and moved quickly to rescue the two shaken ladies and the still occupied pushchair. Some TSG officers drew their batons which caused the crowd to turn around and retreat the way they had come which was in my direction.

The ladies, the pushchair and the infant were taken to an adjacent TSG carrier and placed on board which enable them to recover in safety. When the situation calmed, they went on their way after thanking their rescuers.  

The next incident was unexpected. I was about 50 yards away from the reconstituted group walking towards John Lewis when a masked male sprinted from that group clutching some sort of packaged object under his arm. It looked, to my ex-police eye as if he had stolen something. Seconds later a group of youths followed. It was clear they were not with him but were in pursuit. About five minutes elapsed before the pursuers returned looking rather dejected without their quarry or the package.

There then followed a period where again there were periodic outbursts of hysteria from the centre of the large group where the girls were congregated duly followed by the production of mobile phones filming something!!!  Initially I thought it may have been the infamous prankster ‘Mizzy’ who was the centre of their attentions but I discovered that he had been identified earlier by Oxford Circus station and directed to leave by officers.

Regent Street chaos

Shortly before 7pm there was more screaming and then, instead of a surge, there was a stampede which crossed Oxford Circus and continued down Regent Street. The crowd paused enabling me to catch up and get in front of some of the group who were in the road. There then followed more screaming and another stampede which actually went past me. Unlike my normal shaky mobile phone footage, I was able to stand still as, what now appeared more of a mob, raced past me.

It was quite dramatic but stable footage that later acquired more than two million views on twitter. Further down Regent Street, the crowd stopped while some stores opted to shut their doors. Many tourists and evening shoppers looked on in curiosity while others were clearly alarmed. What had now become more of a mob, was being monitored by a public order police inspector accompanied by a PC and two police evidence gatherers complete with camera equipment. The Inspector was clearly giving frequent updates on his radio.

From Piccadilly, the crowd entered Shaftesbury Avenue. I was slightly behind them but outside McDonalds stood the four above-mentioned officers, batons drawn; behind whom stood a staff member who appeared to be complaining that someone or something had struck him in the head. It seemed there was an attempt to ‘invade’ the fast-food outlet.

The next stop was a souvenir shop on the opposite side of the road. A group of about thirty gathered outside and the shop’s owner or staff member could clearly see the crowd’s intention. Sure enough, despite his protests, youths began grabbing items. Fortunately, the appearance of the Inspector and PC scattered the potential thieves.

Shortly after this incident, carriers arrived and the officers spilled out to monitor the crowd which had now split into smaller groups.

The event ends and the future.

The youths now turned left into the Charing Cross Road and the owner/staff member of a vape type shop was complaining of an incursion by youths. Many of the original crowd that had left Oxford Circus had clearly decided that enough was enough. A return to Oxford Circus saw just a handful of youngsters remaining. Amazingly, at Oxford Street station, ticketless individuals travelling home were still trying to force their way through the gates despite the presence of the BTP. In all there were nine arrests in and around Oxford Street while a number of dispersal notices were issued.

Thus, events of the day were over for the Met but the next day, social media announced there would be another ‘beach party event,’ in Southend. Essex police took action by means of a dispersal order and ‘Mizzy,’ became a ‘victim’ effectively being refused entry into the city. On Saturday, it appeared Bexleyheath’s shopping centre was a target and reports suggested that the area was in Lockdown.

Local police quickly denied there was any lockdown but were aware of the situation and prepared for it. There was, however, no gathering of youths

It seems probable that other ‘influencers’ and mischief makers will continue to suggest gatherings designed to encourage poor behaviour and crime. Notting Hill Carnival looms and it is likely that many of the young people present at this event will also attend Carnival. The strange form of mass hysteria seen in and around Oxford Circus may have been inconsequential on this occasion, but in an overcrowded section of Carnival, just might spark panic in a congested area.

Last year’s Carnival saw a narrowly averted mass crushing incident captured on disturbing mobile phone footage. There was also a horrific fatal stabbing. Any sort of mass panic and/or hysteria in a crowded area of carnival could prove catastrophic yet the risk is taken for another year. 

Chris Hobbs is a retired Special Branch officer 

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Ordered by:
Annoymous. - Sun, 20 August 2023

The influencer should get locked up. Why is it that this kind of behaviour only occurs with a minority of influencers ?