Black Friday. It is a day of hunting for the best sales, rummaging through stores and large crowds rushing through the streets. Yet by about 5pm on the 24th of November, the once vibrant Oxford Street became a podium for disorder and pandemonium. 

The panic within the city stemmed from an argument between two men at Oxford Circus tube station that quickly escalated into a fight that caused the commuters to run. The fight combined with the reported gunshots created a domino effect which started Oxford Street’s very own stampede. This panic spread from the station, all the way to Selfridges, which is just a few minutes down the street. Even more chaos ensued because no one knew what was happening and many believed that it was a terrorist attack. But in reality there were no gunshots, no terrorists and no real danger. So why did a small fight between just two people result in chaos?

Britain has been on edge after the terrorist attacks that have occurred over the past year. This panic was intensified by the numerous false reports that were circulating amongst the people in the area. 27 year old Selfridges employee, Jacob Wing stated that “a woman ran into [his] office, screaming, and explained that there was a terrorist attack.” False reports like these spread more disorder and panic even though it has not been stated as terrorism and no one really knew what was actually happening. 

Selfridges also had false information because people claimed that gunshots had been heard within the store which led to a quick evacuation. What followed this announcement was complete disarray as customers were being trampled on the escalators as people tried to escape. Most injuries sustained came from people being crushed by large crowds.

Since the introduction of social media and the advancements in technology, it has become much quicker and much easier for people to circulate news. It was social media that helped the panic amongst the people to be preserved. Many that were in Oxford Street at the time of the incident learnt about the reported gunshots because of media reports and even through the information given by celebrities. Olly Murs, who was at Selfridges during this event, tweeted to all his 8 million followers that there were gunshots in the store. Mr Wing went on to say that “someone with such a big following can really make a situation worse and it would have been better not to say anything at all in that situation.” Murs thought he was doing some good, but he really just contributed to the pandemonium that took place in Oxford Street.

Today, Oxford Street carries on, still busy and still bright. But in the future, we have to learn how to deal with these situations so that our reactions don't lead to complete chaos. 

Simone Eligon