A violent riot broke out in Union Square in New York City on Friday. The cause was a popular Twitch streamer holding a giveaway for video game systems. Thousands of people mobbed the area, and things quickly got out of hand.
Videos of people destroying cars and fighting each other started to pepper the internet later in the afternoon. According to the Eyewitness News team at WABC, the local ABC affiliate, police originally “did not want to arrest people.”
New York City is completely out of control. Kai Cenat, a popular Twitch streamer, held a giveaway that turned into a massive riot in Union Square. Police were outnumbered, and the mayor remains silent. pic.twitter.com/U4rp9nnSBr
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) August 4, 2023
NYPD sources had told Eyewitness News they did not want to arrest people and they did not want to escalate the situation further. Despite that guidance, Eyewitness News observed several arrests being made as prisoners were loaded onto an MTA bus.
At a 6 p.m. briefing police said they took dozens into custody and we’re told charges against many are pending.
Police eventually changed course and arrested 65 people, though, given New York City’s bail reform laws, it’s likely they will all be back out on the street immediately. Mayor Eric Adams had not released a statement at the time of this writing.
The man who originally summoned the crowd is named Kai Cenat. NYPD arrested him for inciting the riot and violating assembly laws.
Twitch streamer Kai Cenat will be charged with multiple counts after a video game giveaway led thousands of people to overrun Union Square Park on Friday.
Over the last few days, Cenat, one of the most popular streamers on the video game streaming website Twitch, announced that he would give away PlayStation 5 video game consoles at 4 p.m. in Union Square.
Police say he will be charged him with at least two counts of inciting a riot and unlawful assembly, among others.
It’s not clear whether Cenat actually said anything to incite the crowd or whether things just got out of hand when it became clear only a few people would receive the video game systems.
The initial decision by police to lay back in an attempt to not escalate the situation seems to have backfired, as the riot only grew more out of control. In the end, none of this stops until there are real consequences. Throwing people at an MTA bus to be processed and sent home isn’t going to cut it. Real charges have to be prosecuted and followed through on, including seeking jail time to send the message that lawlessness won’t be tolerated.