Thousands of people gathered at Union Square in New York City this afternoon hoping to score a free PlayStation 5s and other electronics after Twitch streamer Kai Cenat promised a “huge giveaway” there at 4 p.m.
The park was already packed at 3 p.m. and, according to NYPD chief Jeffrey Maddrey, “individuals in the park began to commit acts of violence towards the police and the public.”
After some people broke into a nearby construction site, “They began to throw articles that belonged to the construction site: paint can, bottles, rocks. You had people walking around with shovels, axes, and other tools from the construction trade,” he said. “Individuals were also lighting fireworks, throwing them towards the police, they were throwing them towards each other.”
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He said Kai Cenat was eventually removed “for safety reasons,” though it was unclear whether the action was an arrest or simply a move to deescalate the situation.
Images from TV news outlets and social media showed a packed space, with traffic stopped and some people on top of cars and others being arrested. The NYPD activated its highest “Level 4” disaster response. Traffic was diverted from the area and local subway stops were closed.
The park was eventually cleared, with multiple arrests.
Chief Maddrey was unclear just how many people were taken into custody, but said, “We loaded up a city bus.” He then revealed that people attacked the bus itself.
“We had young people attack the bus, trying to pull people off the bus. We had to send resources in to protect the bus. It was a very dangerous situation,” he said.
“Our officers were attacked” and injured, Chief Maddrey said, including himself. He indicated he personally was in the middle of the scrum.
And it wasn’t just police.
“A lot of young people got hurt,” Maddrey announced, before saying that he had witnessed multiple persons leaving the scene bleeding.
After the park was emptied, police followed roving bands of rioters to make sure that property and people were safe.
“We have encountered things like this before,” said the chief of social media events, “but never to this level…We can’t allow this to happen in the future.”
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