A crowd of several thousand people — lured by the promise of free PlayStation 5s by a popular Twitch streamer — descended on Union Square in New York City on Friday afternoon, and became violent and uncontrollable, according to police.
The Twitch influencer, Kai Cenat, along with a streamer known as Fanum had encouraged their followers to come to Union Square at 4 p.m. in a social media posts about giving away multiple Sony PlayStation 5 game consoles.
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By 3 p.m., Cenat’s post went viral and the park was overrun with people well before Cenat was scheduled to arrive, NYPD officials said at a news conference Friday. The crowd began attacking police and members of the public — throwing rocks, bottles, paint cans and other debris and lighting fireworks, according to police. Multiple arrests were made among those in the mob, with the total number still be tallied. Police said they removed Cenat from the area for his own safety after the crowd grew violent and that he remained in custody Friday evening.
“People were suffering out here — it was uncontrolled — and a lot of young people got hurt,” NYPD Chief of Department Jeff Maddrey said at the news conference. “This speaks to the power of social media and the danger of social media.”
During the unrest, New York subway trains bypassed the 14th Street-Union Square station. Police said they had largely dispersed the crowds by 6 p.m. but were continuing to clear scattered gatherings throughout Manhattan.
Cenat is the most-subscribed streamer on Twitch, with more than 1000,000 subscribers according to TwitchTracker.
Police in New York City struggled to control a crowd of thousands of people who gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square for an internet personality’s supposed video game console giveaway that got out of hand. pic.twitter.com/T0OVK2TKTy
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 4, 2023
Pictured above: Members of the NYPD respond to disruptions caused by large crowds during a giveaway event promoted by Twitch livestreamer Kai Cenat in Union Square on Aug. 4, 2023.
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