NEW YORK – Chaos erupted Friday afternoon after a large crowd gathered at Manhattan’s Union Square Park for livestreamer Kai Cenat’s giveaway.
Things spiraled out of control at around 3 p.m., when some of the crowd could be seen tearing down construction barricades and hurling objects, including throwing some objects at responding police officers.
As the chaos unfolded, a vehicle attempted to leave – believed to have been carrying Cenat. The crowd could be seen mobbing it. It moved slowly through throngs of people before eventually speeding off, with people clinging to the sides and back. At least three people could be seen tumbling off the vehicle onto the pavement as it sped away.
Cenat was taken into police custody for questioning at around 5 p.m. CBS New York’s Marcia Kramer reported exclusively Cenat did not have a permit for the event.
Earlier in the day, Cenat posted on social media that he would be there in person for the giveaway.
on Twitch and other social media platforms.
NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said the post quickly went viral, which set the stage for the chaos that followed at around 3 p.m. Authorities estimated some 2,000 people showed up for the meet-and-greet and giveaway, which was to involve video game consoles.
“Soon the park and the surrounding streets were overrun with people. They were disrupting both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The NYPD responded by calling a mobilization in response to the large crowd. As the crowd grew, so did our mobilization. The crowd was swarmed when the influencer finally arrived at the park. Individuals in the park began to commit acts of violence towards the police and the public,” Maddrey said.
Watch Chopper 2 over the scene
Maddrey said some in the crowd stormed a construction site and began to hurl construction equipment, paint cans, bottles, rocks, and more.
“You had people walking around with shovels, axes, and other tools from the construction trade. In addition, individuals were also lighting firecrackers. They were throwing them towards police, and they were throwing them at each other,” Maddrey said.
As the chaos unfolded, Chopper 2 was overhead and spotted people climbing on top of the roof covering the entrance to the Union Square subway station. One person was seen setting off a fire extinguisher, sending huge smoky plumes over the crowd.
The NYPD ultimately called for a massive response – a Level 4 mobilization, meaning roughly 1,000 officers – after people began demolishing construction barricades, throwing objects, and standing on top of the Union Square subway entrance. Several people could be seen being placed into custody.
“Our officers exercised great restraint despite the aggression they were met with and the acts of violence they were met with,” Maddrey said.
The NYPD ultimately declared the gathering an unlawful assembly. They then began warning the crowd to disperse.
“The NYPD offered multiple – and I do mean multiple – opportunities for the crowd to leave. We tried to give them a means of egress for them to exit the park and exit the streets. After numerous warnings and after being assailed, hit with rocks and bottles and other debris, we started to make arrests to clear out the park,” Maddrey said.
The total number of arrests wasn’t immediately known.
Maddrey said several officers sustained injuries. He said he himself had also been struck by objects.
Those initial responding officers, however, were not in riot gear, wearing helmets, or carrying shields – a clear difference from.
“At this time, we successfully dispersed the park. But we still have crowds mulling around Manhattan, and we have officers following them, preventing them from destroying property, looting and other things like that,” Maddrey said.
Maddrey said officials were going to discuss the possibility of Cenat facing charges, including possibly inciting a riot.
“We have encountered things like this before, but never to this level of dangerousness, where young people would not listen to our commands. They were fighting each other. They were hurting each other, and they were turning [their] attacks on us, and we had to make arrests,” Maddrey said.
During the chaos, some of the people at Union Square could be seen standing on top of cars and trucks.
New York City subways are bypassing Union Square station.
Much of the crowd was milling about peacefully. By 4:40 p.m., the crowd had thinned out significantly, but there were still plenty of people in the area. By 6:15 p.m., the crowd was dispersed from Union Square.
Check back soon for more on this developing story.