Social media influencer Kai Cenat was taken into custody by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Friday afternoon after a giveaway event hosted by the young internet personality broke out into a riot in Union Square Park.

Cenat, a 21-year-old live-streamer who has over 6.5 million viewers on the platform Twitch, announced during a stream on Wednesday that he would be hosting a “huge giveaway” at 4 p.m. Friday in Union Square Park. The giveaway was promised to include computers, Play Station 5s, gift cards and other gaming equipment.

NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey told reporters at a briefing Friday evening that police became aware of a large crowd gathering at the park by 1:30 p.m. By approximately 3 p.m., Maddrey said, “thousands” of people had descended upon the square.

A crowd on Friday brawls during the giveaway event held by YouTuber and Twitch streamer Kai Cenat in Union Square Park in New York City. New York City police said that thousands who gathered for the event broke out into “violence,” prompting a large department response.
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty

According to police, the large mob, which was made up of mostly “young people,” began to commit “acts of violence towards the police and the public” once Cenat arrived at Friday’s event. Cenat also failed to obtain a permit or coordinate with the police department ahead of hosting the giveaway.

Maddrey said that Cenat was removed from Union Square Park for safety reasons and was at one point briefly in custody. The NYPD plans to discuss with their legal department about bringing potential charges against the influencer, including related to inciting a riot, Maddrey said at the briefing.

Who is Kai Cenat?

With over 4 million followers on YouTube, 5 million on Instagram, and 6.5 million on Twitch, Cenat has grown into a popular figure in the social media world. In March, he broke the record for most subscriptions during a live stream after hosting a “subathon,” where he was streaming for 24 hours a day, reported the BBC. The event lasted from February 1 to February 28, when Cenat reached 300,000 subscribers, shattering the record of 283,000 subscribers during a non-stop stream.

Outside of his live streams, which usually include Cenat playing video games or chatting with fans, he also made a name for himself on YouTube as part of the content group AMP. Earlier this year, Cenat was given the Streamer of the Year award, an honor created by fellow Twitch streamer QTCinderella, according to a report from Gamerant.

During his live stream earlier this week when he announced Friday’s giveaway, Cenat told his viewers, “I feel like New York really deserves it.”

Kai Cenat attends Fame Fridays on June 9, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. Cenat on Friday was detained by New York City police after his giveaway event descended into violence.
Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty

Thousands of ‘Young People’ Break Out in Violence

Maddrey said that some in the crowd on Friday broke into a construction site in Union Square Park and began to throw items from the site, such as paint cans, bottles and rocks. Some were also seen walking around with “shovels, axes and other tools from the construction site,” the chief said.

NYPD activated a “Level 4” response to the crowd, the highest level of disaster response for the department. Maddrey told reporters that he witnessed several young people bleeding from their heads and faces, as well as some who suffered from anxiety and asthma attacks during the chaos.

Maddrey also said that some NYPD forces were “attacked” during the incident, and that some officers sustained injuries.

At the time of Friday’s briefing, police did not have an estimate for how many arrests were made. Maddrey said that officers “loaded up a city bus” of people who were detained.

Officers also gave multiple warnings to the crowd to disperse or face arrest, NYPD said.

“This speaks to the power of social media, and the danger of social media,” Maddrey said.

“Listen, we’re not against young people having a good time,” he added. “We’re not against young people gathering, but it can’t be to this level where it’s dangerous. A lot of people got hurt today.”

Newsweek reached out to NYPD via email Friday evening for more information.