The UK police have been given special emergency powers to place London high street “on lockdown” for 48 hours over fears of mass looting allegedly inspired by a TikTok video.
Shops and businesses in the south-east London borough were warned to prepare for possible social unrest as “gangs of youths” may carry out looting over the weekend.
A letter dispatched to businesses by Broadway Shopping Center on Friday read: “Many of you will have seen on social media the potential threat of stores being targeted by gangs of youths who intend to steal stock.
“They are targeting specific towns and Bexleyheath has been listed for this coming Saturday, 12 August.
“While this may come to nothing, we have chosen to take the threat seriously in order that we cover every eventuality
“We don’t know what will happen in terms of numbers coming in but the police are confident they will control it.
“The letter is just allaying the fears of employees that are working in the center because we put their concerns first and foremost.
“So it was just to say don’t worry, plenty of police are around and they’ll be able to control the situation, but hopefully it won’t happen,” read the letter by Rai Holdstock, manager of Broadway Shopping Center.
The warning was published on Friday night after viewing the posts on social media platform TikTok, calling on youths to loot stores.
In the meantime, extra police have been drafted in with shop employees who were advised to close their stores if trouble started.
Metropolitan Police said a dispersal order was in place until 4:00 pm on Sunday, giving officers special power to stop people entering the area. “A dispersal order is in place in case of any anti-social behavior and anyone who commits a criminal offense will be dealt with by our officers.”
The spokesperson for Met added: “We will be increasing the number of guards within the shopping center, ensuring that one is positioned at each main entrance.
“If we see that there is any trouble outside we will shut all entrances until everything calms down.”
On Wednesday, a TikTok video was blamed for the disorder erupting in central London’s famous Oxford Street.
Video footage from Wednesday showed baton-wielding police officers clashing with people in Oxford Street, which Home Secretary Suella Braverman likened to the “lawlessness seen in American cities”.
Nine people were arrested after the incident as Braverman insisted perpetrators should be “hunted down and locked up”.