A person jumps on a car during riots sparked by Twitch streamer Kai Cenat, who announced a “givaway” event, in New York’s Union Square on August 4, 2023 – Copyright AFP Yuki IWAMURA
A New York gathering called by a popular online influencer drew an unexpectedly large crowd on Friday and degenerated into violence that left people injured, prompting a massive police turnout, authorities said.
It all started with a posting on Instagram from 21-year-old Kai Cenat, calling on fans to meet him in lower Manhattan for a live-streamed event where he would hand out gifts including PlayStation 5 game consoles.
Thousands of young people — at least 2,000 according to US media — gathered very quickly on Union Square and surrounding streets in the hopes of seeing Cenat, who has millions of followers on Twitch, YouTube, Instagram and other social media.
As the streets heaved, young men started throwing objects from a nearby construction site, targeting people in the crowd and the police, who were rapidly deployed in large numbers.
Television footage and news photographs showed rioters surrounding and blocking vehicles, with young men kicking and smashing some of the cars.
“People were bleeding from their heads, from their faces … people were suffering out here,” said New York City Police Chief Jeffrey Maddrey at a press briefing
“There were a lot of people, it was uncontrolled… a lot of young people got hurt.”
In the end, it took a thousand police officers to disperse the impromptu gathering.
Several people were arrested, Maddrey said. Cenat was taken in for questioning, but had not been formally detained.