clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Twitch streamer Kai Cenat charged for ‘inciting a riot’ after chaotic New York giveaway

A call to action brings thousands to NYC’s Union Square

People gather around and cheer for Kai Cenat. Photo: Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Thousands of people gathered in New York City’s Union Square on Friday afternoon, hoping to win a massive gaming giveaway from Twitch streamer Kai Cenat. The crowd quickly grew out of control and spilled out of Union Square Park and into the street, engulfing cars and taxi cabs. Cenat has been charged with inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, “and a few other charges,” police announced Friday night. Those charges are considered misdemeanors under New York law.

Cenat and YouTuber Fanum intended to give away PlayStation 5s, gaming PCs, and various gaming accessories at the meetup, which Cenat announced earlier in the week. The giveaway was expected to kick off at 4 p.m. ET, but people began congregating at the park hours earlier. A tweet advertising the event has since been deleted. Cenat streamed live from the scene, first from a vehicle, where he acknowledged the large crowd and NYPD presence and warned his fans to be safe.

The stream continued for mere minutes after Cenat exited the car flanked by bodyguards; he was soon overwhelmed by the crowd. The streaming device appears to have been dropped on the ground before the stream ended. Video footage from a person at the event shows Cenat being lifted out of the crowd and escorted away by police.

Video from the scene showed chaos as thousands of people congregated inside Union Square Park and spilled out into the streets, often climbing on top of buses and cars. “A lot of young people got hurt,” New York Police Department chief of department Jeffrey Maddrey said during a press conference Friday. Maddrey described young people coming out of the crowd bleeding and having panic attacks. Several officers were injured, too, he said. In a later press conference, Maddrey said that multiple people were treated for fireworks injuries and broken bones at the hospital.

Live helicopter footage from the scene showed police arresting people in the crowd and loading them into a city bus as people climbed on cars and structures. Police said during a press conference that 60 people were arrested at the event, of which 30 were minors.

Fanum appeared to have left the crowd in a black SUV surrounded by people, while Cenat was escorted out by police and taken in for questioning. A person wearing a bright green hoodie, likely Fanum, can be seen from the vehicle’s sunroof as the car backed out of the crowd. Once out of the crowd, the car exited the scene with several people hanging off the back — and at least one person fell off the car as it was driving away from the scene, as seen on CBS New York’s live feed. Cenat did not have a permit for the event, Maddrey said.

Thousands of people crowded into Union Square. Photo: CBS News via livestream

Soon after Cenat left the area, the crowd began to slowly disperse. Union Square Park was largely cleared by 5:30 p.m.

Cenat is a 21-year-old Twitch streamer and YouTube creator; earlier this year, he became the most-subscribed-to Twitch streamer, taking the record from Ludwig Ahgren. This year, he won the Streamer of the Year title from the Streamer Awards and the Streamys. Like Fanum, he is part of the YouTube collective AMP. Cenat has millions of followers across his social media platforms.

Update (Aug. 5): This story has been updated to include new information about Cenat’s charges.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon