US YouTuber Kai Cenat has been charged by New York City authorities with inciting a riot and unlawful assembly after a video game console giveaway on Friday, which he’d reportedly advertised to his ten million social-media followers, descended into chaos.
Police made more than 60 arrests as thousands of Cenat’s fans responded to a message he issued online in which he said he’d be giving away 300 Sony PlayStation 5 consoles at Union Square in Manhattan. He did not receive a permit from city authorities to hold the event.
“We’re not going to do nothing until it’s safe,” Cenat said during a livestream video at the event as his supporters clashed with police. “Everybody for themselves, because it’s war out there man.” He added: “[The police are] throwing tear gas out there.”
Around two hours after people began to arrive on the scene on Friday afternoon, the area – which also features one of New York City’s busiest subway stops – had become overwhelmed by crowds, many of whom were apparently disappointed at not being given the video-game equipment. Cenat was later removed from the scene for his own safety.
Some fans descended onto nearby streets and obstructed traffic, reports say, while others climbed onto the nearby subway station’s roof and began throwing projectiles at police officers attending the scene. Reports also state that some people were wielding shovels and pickaxes which had been stolen from a nearby building site. Three officers and four civilians were injured, police said.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) later indicated that it had declared a “level-four mobilization” which means that at least 1,000 officers were ordered to the scene.
“We have encountered things like this before, but never to this level of dangerousness, where young people would not listen to our commands,” NYPD department chief Jeffrey Maddrey said in a press conference later on Friday. He added that some young people had been observed throwing fireworks towards police officers.
It remains unclear if Cenat gave away any PlayStation consoles to fans during what police later described as a “full-on riot.”
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