Photos and videos from attendees captured the chaos onsite as police personnel and NYFD were dispatched to help disperse the crowd. One Twitch user described the incident as “Zoomer January 6.”
“Due to police activity, avoid the area surrounding Union Square Park & use alternate routes. Expect a police presence in the area and residual traffic delays,” read a tweet from NYPD Friday. NYPD told NBC New York that a “couple thousand people” crowded the park.
Cenat was taken into NYPD custody following the incident, with department chief Jeffrey Maddrey saying in a Friday night press conference that the streamer had been charged with two counts of inciting a riot, with the potential for additional charges (including unlawful assembly, as Cenat did not acquire a permit for the event) pending investigation.
Cenat announced the giveaway earlier in the day Friday with an illustration of himself and Fanum posing in front of an SUV and behind a “police line do not cross” barricade. The Twitch streamers were reportedly passing out free PlayStation 5s to attendees.
Cenat live-streamed some of the event himself as he entered an unruly crowd. Helicopter footage of the area saw the entire Union Square Park, with local reports from CBS New York claiming that Level 4 mobilization was requested by police.
Police told Rolling Stone that as of 5:50 p.m. ET, no injuries had been reported, but said at a press conference later that evening that some police officers were injured while clearing the area. Reps for Cenat did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
ABC7 New York reported that drivers in the area were trapped in their cars as they were surrounded by the massive crowds, and that an SUV “believed to be carrying Cenat” drove away from the scene while several people held onto the sides and top of the car.
As of 6:15 p.m., at hundreds officers were on the scene, and had blocked off below 15th Street. Helicopters continued to fly overhead.
In a press conference, NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey said that the cops had become aware of the call for the gathering around 1:30 p.m., and dispatched officers to the area shortly after 3, when thousands of young people began to arrive in Union Square. He described a chaotic scene of young people breaking into a construction site, hurling paint cans and fireworks, injuring each other and officers. He said that there had been “quite a few” arrests, but didn’t have an official tally at the time.
“This speaks to the power of social media, and the danger of social media,” he said, noting that the gathering hadn’t been pre-planned with the city.
A statement released Saturday evening by Cenat’s content house, AMP, said they had been trying to create a “positive experience for fans,” as they’d done many times before. “We’ve hosted fan meet ups and video shoots in the past, but we’ve never experienced anything at the scale of what took place yesterday,” they wrote. “We recognize that our audience and influence are growing, and with that comes greater responsibility. We are deeply disheartened by the outbreak of disorderly conduct that affected innocent people and businesses, and do not condone that behavior. We apologize to all of those impacted. We are fully cooperating with local authorities.”
Cenat was named one of “the 20 most influential creators right now” by Rolling Stone earlier this year.
This story was updated August 5 at 8 a.m. EST with the charge against Cenat. It was updated at 5:30 p.m. EST with a statement from AMP.