In a stunning scene, a crowd of thousands packed Manhattan’s Union Square for Kai Cenat’s hyped giveaway that quickly got out of hand Friday afternoon with some clambering on vehicles, hurling chairs and throwing punches, injuring police as they struggled to rein in the chaos.
At the height of the riot, shouting teenagers swung objects at car windows, threw paint cans and set off fire extinguishers. Some people climbed on a moving vehicle, falling off as it sped away. Others pounded on or climbed atop city buses.
Police made at least 65 arrests, including 30 juveniles.
The NYPD said Twitch streamer Kai Cenat is facing 3 charges including riot, first degree, causing public injury and damage, which is a felony. He faces 2 misdemeanor charges of inciting a riot and unlawful assembly.
Cenat has no prior arrests and was issued a desk appearance ticket for the charges, requiring him to report to court at a later date. He was released from custody overnight.
By 5:30 p.m., police officers in growing numbers had regained control of much of the area, but small skirmishes were still breaking out, with young people knocking over barricades and throwing bottles and even a flowerpot at officers. Police were seen wrestling people to the ground and chasing them down the street.
Police planned to charged the streamer, Kai Cenat, with multiple counts of inciting a riot, unlawful assembly and possibly other crimes, NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said in the evening. Officers arrested 65 people, including 30 juveniles.
A number of people were injured, including at least four people taken away in ambulances, Maddrey said, adding that he saw other people leaving the area with bloodied heads.
“People were suffering out here,” Maddrey said. Some motorists were trapped as people climbed on top of their cars. Maddrey said several police vehicles were damaged, including his.
On his Instagram feed, Cenat had promoted a giveaway at 4 p.m. in the park. People started lining up as early as 1:30 p.m. By 3 p.m., the crowd had swelled and was getting unruly. Some young people leaving the park said they had come expecting to get a computer for livestreaming or a new PlayStation.
Skylark Jones, 19, and a friend came to see Cenat and try to get something from his giveaway. When they arrived the scene was already packed. Bottles were being thrown. There was a commotion even before Cenat appeared, they said.
“It was a movie,” Jones said. Police “came with riot shields, charging at people.”
Cenat, 21, is a video creator with 6.5 million followers on the platform Twitch, where he regularly livestreams. He also boasts 4 million subscribers on YouTube, where he posts daily life and comedy vlogs ranging from “Fake Hibachi Chef Prank!” to his most recent video, “I Rented Us Girlfriends In Japan!”
The crowds spurred the NYPD to activate a “Level 4” response, its highest level of disaster response. The department earlier announced that they had activated a “Level 2” response to handle the crowds and clear the area.
Maddrey said that as the crowd grew, “individuals in the park began to commit acts of violence towards the police and the public.” He said that some attendees took items from a nearby construction site.
“You had people walking around with shovels, axes, and other tools from the construction,” he said. “Individuals were also lighting fireworks, throwing them towards the police, they were throwing them towards each other.”
Cenat was removed by police for “safety reasons,” according to Maddrey. He said the Twitch streamer had not alerted the police to the gathering or obtained a permit, and it was declared an unlawful assembly.
Several police officers were injured in the frenzy and “quite a few” people were arrested as police worked to clear the crowd, Maddrey said. He gestured at dirt on his own uniform, saying, “I was in the middle of the crowd, I was hit with multiple objects.”
Some parents came out to the park in search of their children, but Maddrey said he wished more parents would have come to help break up the disorderly crowds.
“We’re not against young people having a good time, we’re not against young people gathering,” Maddrey said. “But it can’t be to this level where it’s dangerous. A lot of people got hurt today.”
He said that while the crowd had dispersed from the park, police were still monitoring “crowds mulling around Manhattan.”
Cenat said during his Wednesday stream that attendees would be able to win prizes by correctly answering “random questions” related to YouTube and streaming. “If you get it right, boom, you get a PS5, just like that,” he said.
Cenat streamed live on Twitch on Friday for some portion of the event, posting video from the crowd. In one video seemingly posted from inside a truck, he described the chaotic gathering, saying, “It’s everybody for themselves. It’s a war out there.” He also described the heavy police presence.
Friday afternoon, the influencer posted a picture to his Instagram story showing news coverage of the crowds along with the message, “I love you guys to the fullest you guys are amazing.”
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