Kai Cenat, a popular social media influencer known for his video game streams, will face charges for allegedly inciting a riot and unlawful assembly in Manhattan on Friday, according to the New York Police Department. Thousands of young people descended on New York’s Union Square on Friday after Cenat promised to give away free video game consoles and other prizes.
People in the crowd were jumping on top of cars, tossing chairs and even throwing punches at police, according to ABC 7 in New York. Food carts and police cars were also damaged, according to the NYPD. At least 65 people were arrested in the mayhem, including 30 kids.
“This event grew rapidly, fast. And, again, this is the power of social media,” NYPD chief of department Jeffrey Maddrey said at a press conference on Friday evening, noting that the video game giveaway wasn’t a permitted event.
“We wanted the kids to just comply with us and leave. But we were attacked,” Maddrey continued.
Cenat, who’s 21 years old, was taken into custody but it’s not yet clear whether the influencer has been formally charged. An unnamed 17-year-old was hospitalized with a fireworks injury that had been previously reported by some media outlets as a gunshot wound, with was incorrect, according to the NYPD.
Maddrey stressed multiple times in his press conference on Friday that social media is a unique force for organizing people that can easily get out of hand.
“We went from 300 kids to thousand kids to a couple thousand kids in minutes. Minutes,” Maddrey stressed.
While Cenat is best known for his livestreams about video games on Twitch, a post on Instagram was what mobilized his fans to descend on Manhattan on Friday. That post, which was published on Wednesday, had over 2 million views by Friday, according to NBC News, and encouraged people to come out at 4:00 p.m. ET. That Instagram post is no longer available on the social media site, which is owned by Meta, though it’s not clear if Cenat himself deleted the post.
Photos on social media show New York police arresting various people, including one young person who was thrown against a vehicle, breaking the back window with his head. A photographer on the scene captured the aftermath, which can be seen below.
Cenat, who has 6.5 million followers on Twitch, was reportedly livestreaming on the platform as he approached the crowd in New York and was promising to give away gift cards along with other prizes like a Playstation.
“We can’t let this happen here. We can’t let this happen with our young people,” Maddrey said. “So, again, I have to implore the parents. We need your help with this.”