New York park erupts in chaos as live streamer's giveaway goes awry

By Reuters   August 4, 2023 | 04:19 pm PT
New York park erupts in chaos as live streamer's giveaway goes awry
People stand on top of a subway station entrance to protect themselves after popular live streamer Kai Cenat announced a "giveaway" event that grew chaotic, prompting police officers to respond and disperse the crowd at Union Square and the surrounding streets, in New York City, U.S. August 4, 2023. Photo by Reuters/David 'Dee' Delgado
Thousands of people overran New York City's Union Square and the surrounding streets on Friday in a chaotic scene after a popular live streamer announced a "giveaway" event, with police struggling to contain fans throwing projectiles and injuring officers.

The event was promoted by Kai Cenat, best known for his live streams on the gaming site Twitch and YouTube videos. He had earlier announced a "huge giveaway" on his Instagram account for 4 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) at the Manhattan park.

Before the event began, footage from news choppers showed people flinging bottles and chairs, climbing onto the roof of a subway entrance, standing on top of cars and unloading a fire extinguisher.

Jeffrey Maddrey, the highest-ranking uniformed officer for the New York City Police Department, told reporters that police were questioning Cenat and that charges against him were possible, including inciting a riot.

Maddrey said the total number of arrests was not yet clear but that police had filled a city bus with people taken into custody. Several officers and attendees were injured; Maddrey said he was himself hit by objects.

"Individuals in the park began to commit acts of violence towards the police and the public," he said at a press conference. "Our officers were attacked. We were crushed, we were pushed."

Some people set off fireworks, while others wielded tools from a construction site, Maddrey said. It was not immediately clear what had sparked the chaos.

Video from TV news helicopters showed Cenat in a black SUV at one point, standing with his head through the moon roof, as people mobbed the vehicle. At least one person fell off the car as it drove away.

In a video posted Thursday, Cenat told his followers that the giveaway would include computers and Playstation 5 consoles.

Cenat, 21, has 6.5 million followers on Twitch and 4 million subscribers on YouTube. He was named "Streamer of the Year" in 2022 at the Streamy Awards.

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