Social media influencer Kai Cenat has been charged with inciting a riot and unlawful assembly after his promised giveaway event in Manhattan’s Union Square descended into violence.

Thousands of Mr Cenat’s fans gathered in the park on Friday afternoon after he announced a “huge giveaway” in a Twitch livestream.

The scene quickly turned violent as aerial footage showed fights breaking out, people hurling stones and chairs at police officers, climbing onto a subway station entrance and tearing down metal barriers.

An unknown number of people were hurt, including several officers, and dozens were arrested.

Mr Cenat, 21, who has 6.5 million followers on Twitch and more than four million on YouTube, was surrounded by hundreds of fans as the chaos unfolded before he left with a police escort and was later taken in for questioning.

On Friday night, NYPD chief of department Jeffrey Maddrey announced Mr Cenat was facing two counts of inciting a riot and unlawful assembly, among other charges that were not disclosed.

Mr Maddrey confirmed that there had been no coordination with police ahead of the event. Mr Cenat has not spoken publicly about the incident.

In total, police arrested 65 people, including 30 juveniles.

Mr Cenat announced his giveaway in a Twitch stream on Wednesday, promising to hand out computers, Play Station 5s, microphones, keyboards, webcams, gaming chairs, headphones and giftcards.

“I feel like New York really deserves it,” he said.

A huge crowd gathered in Union Square for a giveaway by YouTuber Kai Cenat

(NBC New York)

Police confront Kai Cenat fans in Union Square

(Getty Images)

Fans began gathering in Union Square at around 3pm Friday, an hour before Mr Cenat’s anticipated arrival. The park was quickly overwhelmed as the crowds spilled into the streets, with Mr Maddrey saying: “We went from 300 kids to a couple of thousands of kids in minutes.”

The NYPD activated its highest level of disaster response, Level 4, after initial attempts to clear the crowds faltered and violence exploded.

A citywide alert went out for every available officer across the five boroughs — up to 1,000 officers — to go straight to Union Square to deal with the rioting.

Mr Maddrey said that the teenagers broke into a construction site in the square and threw rocks, bottles, paint cans and lit fireworks at officers.

“Our officers were attacked, we were crushed, we were pushed, I had officers on the floor,” Mr Maddrey said.

Kai Cenat stands at the centre of a crowd in Union Square on Friday


“You had people were walking around with shovels, axes… a lot of young people got hurt.”

A line of police with clubs and shields smashed through the crowd at around 4.30pm, and began to regain control of the situation, according to reporters on the ground.

One police officer was reportedly jumped by rioters and severely beaten. Mr Maddrey said he had been in the thick of the riot, and suffered injuries after being hit with flying objects.

“As you see I’m a little embarrassed, I’m very dirty right here.

“I was in the middle of the crowd, I was hit with a couple of objects as well. I think I have a couple of injuries but I’ll figure that out when I have time to think about it.

NYPD chief of department Jeffrey Maddrey was injured in the riot before fronting a press conference on Friday afternoon


“I had officers who were hit and were hurt, but they stayed to help us resolve this.”

Mr Maddrey saw young people in the crowd with severe injuries, and suffering panic attacks and anxiety attacks.

“People were suffering out here. It was a lot of people, it was uncontrolled, it took us a while to get it under control, and a lot of young people got hurt.”

Many of the injuries were sustained by teenagers throwing objects at one another, he added.

He said police were still gauging the exact number of injuries.


Earlier, CBS News New York showed live video footage showing several people had climbed onto a roof at the entrance to Union Square.

“Our officers used great restraint despite the aggression they were met with,” Mr Maddrey said.

The gathering was declared an unlawful assembly, and officers tried to encourage them to leave the area.

“After numerous warnings and assailed, we started to make arrests and clear out the park.”

Traffic was snarled in streets surrounding the square, with groups of youths climbing on top of vehicles.

Rioters used makeshift weapons to hit cars

(Associated Press)

People could be seen pounding on the side of a bus, and climbing on top of another bus and jumping up and down.

The MTA prevented subway trains from stopping at Union Square for about an hour, before resuming regular services just before 5pm.

A large amount of paint was splattered across the south side of Union Square Park.

Police erected metal barricades to try to push the crowd back.

They issued a warning over loudspeakers: “This gathering is unlawful. You are ordered to disperse.

New York Police put up barricades in Union Square as they struggled to contain the crowd

(Associated Press)

“If you leave voluntarily, no charges will be placed against you. If you refuse to leave you will be arrested for unlawful assembly.”

After Union Square quieted down, Mr Maddrey said police were continuing to monitor groups of rioters who had spread out around Manhattan.

“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 and they were hurting each other.”

“This is the power of social media, the danger of social media,” Mr Maddrey said. “We can’t allow this to happen again.”

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