Twitch streamers Kai Cenat and Fanum invited fans to Union Square on Friday for a real-life stream and giveaway. They promised to hand out gift cards, gaming PC equipment and PlayStation 5s.
But the IRL stream descended into chaos as frenzied fans rioted over the giveaway, shutting down lower Manhattan in the aftermath.
Cenat, who has 6.5 million Twitch followers and 4 million YouTube subscribers, advertised the New York City giveaway in now-deleted tweets. He collaborated with Fanum, who has 1.3 million followers on Twitch and 1.2 million on YouTube. The stream was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on Friday.
But by 1:10 pm, police responded to a “large gathering” in the park, a New York Police Department spokesperson told TechCrunch. The spokesperson said that “a couple thousand individuals” crowded into the location. By 3:30, videos of the riot began flooding social media. Fights broke out as people in the crowd climbed vehicles and threw traffic cones.
Cenat’s stream was cut short by the riot. A clip on his Twitch channel shows the crowd shoving into each other.
The NYPD spokesperson said about 1,000 police officers were deployed to the location, and at the time of reporting, there were no injuries. Cenat was pulled from the crowd and taken into police custody, NBC New York reports, but the NYPD spokesperson could not confirm additional arrests to TechCrunch.
That “may change,” the spokesperson said, as the NYPD will not have “concrete numbers” until this evening or tomorrow morning. Videos posted online claim that other creators were also arrested during the riot.
Cenat briefly went live on Instagram from inside a police car, and told the crowd to go home.
The NYPD advised New Yorkers to steer clear of Union Square Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. “Expect a police presence in the area and residual traffic delays,” the department said in a tweet.
Public transit was also significantly delayed. The New York Transit Authority announced that eight subway lines will bypass the Union Square stop because of police activity, and urged commuters to take alternate routes.
Cenat posted, and then deleted, a message to his followers in the aftermath of the riot.
“I love you guys to the fullest, you guys are amazing,” he wrote in a now-deleted Instagram story, which featured a photo of local news coverage of the riot. “THE LOVE FROM HOME BASE IS REAL. Please be safe.”