Police in New York City said they haven’t ruled out charging Kai Cenat after the popular Twitch streamer and YouTuber advertised a “HUGE GIVEAWAY” in the city’s Union Square that descended into mayhem on Friday afternoon, with a crowd of thousands turning unruly.
Cenat was evacuated by police for “safety reasons,” said NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, and he was being questioned at a precinct on Friday evening.
As for a potential arrest, Maddrey said, “We’ll discuss with our legal department about inciting a riot and other charges.”
Videos from the scene showed thousands of people shoving each other, tearing down barricades, jumping on cars, and throwing objects, including at police officers. Others were spotted arming themselves with materials from a nearby construction site, including saws and white paint, ABC 7 reported.
Maddrey detailed much of the same, saying officers were bleeding from their heads and were assaulted by the rioters, who were largely dispersed by 6 p.m. The NYPD was forced to call in roughly 1,000 officers to get the crowd under control, and others were dispatched to track groups of people who walked elsewhere in Manhattan.
Adding to the madness, fireworks erupted regularly among the crowd—clearly frightening those who mistook the blasts for gunshots.
“Our officers exercised great strength despite the aggression that they were met with and the acts of violence they were met with,” Maddrey added in an afternoon press conference.
Reporters on the ground said that police had filled buses with people under arrest, and a New York Police Department spokesperson confirmed to NBC 4 that “numerous” individuals in the crowd had been detained.
The chaos broke out around 3:30 p.m. after Cenat promised to give fans free PS5 game consoles. It’s unclear how many freebies, if any, were distributed before the crowd became rowdy.
An hour later, numerous news helicopters circled above Manhattan, capturing the chaos and live streaming it online and over the air. The number of rioters, reported to be mostly teens and young adults, continued to grow into the thousands, Maddrey said.
Several outlets reported that Cenat was taken in for questioning, and a video circulating on Twitter appeared to show the influencer surrounded by cops as he was ushered into a patrol car at the scene.
Cenat has more than 4 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, 5.5 million followers on Instagram, and 6.5 million followers on Twitch. His giveaway promised all sorts of freebies, including game consoles, games and gift cards.
While the giveaway was scheduled for 4 p.m., hundreds had already flooded Union Square by 3 p.m.
“This speaks to the power of social media and the dangers of social media,” Maddrey said.
The NYPD advised people in a tweet to avoid the area and “expect a police presence in the area and residual traffic delays.” Several train lines temporarily skipped the 14 St-Union Sq station due to the police activity.
Cenat’s representatives did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Friday.
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