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YouTuber Kai Cenat faces criminal charges after giveaway spawns out-of-control crowd in NYC

A video game giveaway caused havoc in New York City Friday after thousands of people mobbed Union Square Park hoping to be a lucky winner.

Popular comedy and Twitch streamer Kai Cenat announced a few of his fans could win free PlayStation 5 consoles at 4 p.m. in Union Square, eventually leading to the swarm of people. Police say they struggled to contain the thousands of people who took over the park and the roads.

The YouTuber posted a photo of ABC7's aerial footage of the crowd on his Instagram story.

Arrests have been made, but the New York Police Department on Friday night was unable to provide a total of the detained or injured.

"At approximately 3 p.m., the post went viral and thousands of people began to arrive at Union Square. Soon the park and the surrounding streets were overrun with people. They were obstructing vehicular and pedestrian traffic," New York Police Chief Jeffrey Maddrey said at a press conference Friday. "After numerous warnings and being assailed [and] hit with rocks, bottles and other debris, we started to make arrests to clear out the park."

The mass of people reportedly threw objects at officers requiring some to take cover behind cars, holding pieces of plywood, according to ABC7. Some people in the crowd threw paint cans and other equipment while others climbed up the gazebo and the George Washington statue.

Maddrey added that an unspecified number of officers were injured in the scuffle.

Cenat charged, police say

Officers eventually removed Cenat for safety purposes and he was in police custody early Friday evening, Maddrey said.

Cenat will face multiple criminal charges, including unlawful assembly and inciting a riot, Maddrey said at a second press conference Friday evening.

Much of the crowd had left the area by 7 p.m., but officers were continuing to monitor some groups that were moving around Manhattan, Maddrey said.

A person jumps on the top of a car as another punctures the tire near Union Square park, Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, in New York. Police in New York City are struggling to control a crowd of thousands of people who gathered in Manhattan's Union Square for an Internet personality's videogame console giveaway that got out of hand.

Queens train derailment:13 injured as train carrying about 100 passengers derails in NYC

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said all subway trains were functioning after the swarm of people bypassed a stop near Union Square Park for a short time.

USA TODAY has reached out to Cenat's representatives for comment.

Maddrey said the department will work to find ways to prevent future occurrences.

"Most of it was within the park. The young people in the park were throwing objects at each other. They were dancing. They were doing a whole lot of stuff, but they were hurting each other while doing it," Maddrey said. "We have encountered things like this before but never to this level of dangerousness where young people would not listen to our commands."

"They were fighting each other, they were hurting each other and they were turning their attacks on us." Maddrey said.

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