LONDON — Five people were arrested Wednesday after rowdy crowds gathered on London's busiest shopping street and rushed into stores after messages on social media called for looters to target the area.
The messages posted to TikTok and other social media channels prompted “highly visible” police presence in Central London, where officers carried out stop and searches.
Videos posted on social media showed a chaotic scene, as people ran across streets screaming. Several showed crowds of people rushing into shops. Others appeared confused by the heavy police presence on the scene.
London's Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement that five people had been arrested and 24 dispersal orders had been issued on Oxford Street, which has about half-a-million daily visitors.
Dispersal orders provide the police with extra powers to break up groups of two or more people, where they believe their behavior is causing a nuisance, harassment or distress.
“We are aware of online speculation about opportunities to commit crime around Oxford Street,” the force said in the statement posted on X, the social media giant formerly known as Twitter.
“There will be a significant number of our officers in the area over the next 24 hours,” it added. “Anyone committing a crime can expect to be dealt with robustly.”
The force issued the warning after posts began appearing on TikTok and other social media apps calling for people to raid a sporting goods store at 3 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET). It advised the “dress code” was a balaclava and gloves.
Some stores on the street closed and brought down shutters around that time as crowds gathered on the busy street, Britain’s Press Association news agency reported. Police did not say if any stores had been looted.
Wednesday's events followed an incident earlier this year, when footage was posted to social media of a mob looting stock from a candy store in the area.
In a later statement, police said, “We have issued 24 dispersal orders and arrested five people.”
Earlier, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan told the Press Association that he was “worried about this nonsense we have seen on TikTok encouraging people to go to Oxford Street.”
He added that the police understood “why some people may be tempted to go to that part of London because of the TikTok," but he would encourage people not to go.
“Do not allow yourself to be sucked into an area that could be a high crime area,” he said.