An online invitation to ‘riot’ at a Croydon sports store appears to be part of an international campaign of similar rallying cries across England, Ireland and two other mainland European countries dubbed ‘urban stealing’.
Inquiries by Eastlondonlines show that the original messages, under the heading ‘Croydon Riots 2k19’ which encouraged would-be ‘rioters’ to congregate at JD Sports in Croydon town centre on November 7 are part of a pattern of similar messages targeted at the chain.
Police in several countries are now investigating the individual incidents some of which involve theft, damage and riotous behaviour. There is some suggestion that the messages began in response to an incident at a branch of the JD Sports chain in Liegé in Belgium when members of staff were racially abused by a manager on October 23.
The first event in the sequence appears to have been eight days later in Tottenham in north London on October 31, when a group of hooded and masked men stormed into a branch of JD Sports. Film taken at the scene and posted on Twitter and Snapchat show them apparently looting the shop. Police are investigating.
As reported by Eastlondonlines earlier this week, despite the alerts and reports of a precautionary police presence, no would-be rioters turned up in Croydon a week later on November 7, but on the same night, a JD Sports branch in Brussels was looted by a group of individuals said to be wearing hoods and masks. Belgian police are investigating
The following night there were four more incidents. Police riot vans were called to another JD branch in Stoke-on-Trent over fears teenagers in balaclavas were planning to raid the store, apparently also in response to an online message. As in Croydon, no mob actually appeared. However one person was arrested later for possession of a knife. Local police officer Sergeant Chris Moss said that the craze was called ‘urban stealing.’
Although Moss also claimed that eight people had been arrested and 40 had attended the Croydon incident, the Metropolitan Police said they could not confirm the figures.
But in a much more serious incident on the same night, a group of men armed with knives invaded a JD Sports store in Amsterdam stealing trainers and clothes. Dutch police are investigating.
In Cork, in southern Ireland, Garda riot squads are said to have prevented more than 100 young people from raiding JD Sports on Patrick Street, after a similar post to the one in Croydon advertising a “JD Cork City Robbery” was widely shared on social media. It issued a dress code: ‘You must wear all black with bally and gloves’ adding ‘You only have 1 minute to yam that shop. This is at you own risk. Don’t come if can’t run. Don’t come in uniform.’
The head of serious crime in Cork, Superintendent Mick Comyns, said: “The people involved were all in their teens, of school-going age. And they were from all over the city.”
Cork Gardaí are now said to be using social media in an attempt to locate the organisers of the raid.
In the last known incident, a security barrier is reported to have been erected around JD Sports in Swindon, on Monday, when a group of young people began to congregate outside the store.
The incidents are believed to stem from a response to the incident on October 23, at the JD branch in Liège, Belgium, where a store manager is said to have told her employees to line up in three separate columns based on their ethnicity, using the terms “Arabs”, “Macaques” and “Gwers” — a video of which has been circulating on social media. They have since been dismissed.
A spokesperson for JD Sports told Eastlondonlines the company would not comment on the spate of attacks while a police investigation is ongoing.