There’s something not quite right about the story of World Cup fans trashing an ambulance

While multiple people took part in trashing a London ambulance after the football, one woman has been singled-out and virally vilified. 

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While the whole country was aggressively off their faces after England’s World Cup win on Saturday afternoon, things started to get a little out of hand. Pictures and videos began to spread across social media of fans piling into the streets, moshing in IKEA, jumping on car roofs, and smashing through the tops of bus shelters.

While a lot of the shenanigans were harmless and light-hearted, the havoc resulted in some actual criminal damage. There were smashed cars and buses, the aforementioned shattered bus shelter, and even one badly-beaten rapid response ambulance in London. The ambulance, in particular, caused some well-justified outrage, especially after a melancholic tweet came out from London’s Ambulance Service’s Twitter account.

The damage to this London ambulance has created a news story that just wasn’t… quite right. One of the replies to London Ambulance’s tweet, a picture of a woman on top of the damaged ambulance, almost immediately went viral, disseminated across social media and published online in a variety of national news outlets and tabloids. The image quickly made its way onto the Tower Hamlets Police Twitter feed, where, alongside the image, they called for any information to identify the woman in the picture clambering on top of the damaged ambulance.

Within a matter of hours, one woman was painted as the face of the hooliganism that ensued in the aftermath of England’s quarter final win.

This singular manhunt would make sense if this woman was the sole offender in the case of damaging this London ambulance. But, the weird thing about this police singling out this woman, is that she was far from the only one responsible. At least five other people were involved in trashing the vehicle, with photos showing these other individuals standing on top of that same ambulance also posted on Twitter (they were predominantly men and predominantly did not feel pressured to keep their clothes on.)

While one other image of this man dressed as Gareth Southgate did make it onto the Tower Hamlets Police Twitter feed, it was merely quote-tweeted by the account and was done so over 24 hours after the initial tweet was published, resulting in way less public attention. This is despite the fact that pictures of the other people damaging the ambulance were just as widely available on social media and despite the fact that Twitter users were repeatedly replying to the Tower Hamlets Police account asking about the other individuals seen standing on top of the ambulance.

Then the Poplar branch of the Tower Hamlets police sent out this eerily sinister tweet when the woman singled-out was finally identified:

This tweet received thousands of likes and retweets, and ultimately garnered far more attention than the Tower Hamlets Police predecessor. And although news of someone who has committed a crime being identified by the police is not bad news, the way it was framed, especially by an official police Twitter account, feels less than appropriate (see: threatening tone, use of emojis.)

When asked for comment, the Metropolitan Police said that they had deleted the tweets from the Tower Hamlets Police Twitter account (they were only deleted after comment was requested.) “It was posted with the best intentions, however we acknowledge that a single alleged suspect should not have been singled out,” they said. 

Sarah Manavis is the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer. Sign up to her free weekly newsletter the Dress Down for the latest film, TV, art, theatre and book reviews.

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