Kai Cenat — the online influencer whose promises of gift cards and gaming giveaways led to a chaotic crowd of thousands storming Union Square Friday — has been hit with multiple charges as a result of the melee, police said.
The 21-year-old Bronx resident was charged with riot, inciting to riot and unlawful assembly, police said. All of the charges are misdemeanors and Cenat was issued a desk appearance ticket — meaning he was released from police custody and will have to appear before a judge to answer the charges.
At around 1:30 p.m. Friday police said they became aware of people heading to Union Square for an event promoted by Cenat. By 4 p.m., thousands of people, mostly teens, had swarmed the park. Some had broken into a nearby construction site and started hurling paint cans, tools and other objects, police said.
Hundreds of officers moved in to dispel the crowd and made 66 arrests. In a briefing shortly after the incident, NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said the young people were attacking each other as well as police.
“Our officers were attacked. We were crushed, were pushed, we had officers on the floor,” said Maddrey, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the NYPD. “I was in the middle of the crowd. I was hit with multiple objects as well.”
Cenat was taken into custody Friday afternoon and Maddrey warned then he would face charges. If convicted, Cenat could face thousands of dollars in fines or possibly a brief prison sentence.
“I watched young people walking out bleeding from their heads,” Maddrey said, adding that some people were “having panic attacks, anxiety attacks, asthma attacks.”
About a dozen people were seen in handcuffs and loaded onto an MTA bus. Subway trains were temporarily bypassing Union Square Friday afternoon, but had resumed by early evening according to the MTA. Entrances to the park were shut down but have since been reopened.
Cenat is popular on YouTube and Twitch, where he has more than six million followers. In a video shared earlier this week on Twitch, he could be seen encouraging his followers to meet him at Union Square, and he displayed dozens of gift cards that he planned to hand out.
“We’re giving away PCs, we’re giving away … PS5s, a whole lot of that sh*t,” Cenat said in on the video. “We will be giving away motherf***ing microphones for the PC, keyboards for the PC, webcams for the PC, gaming chairs for the PC, headphones for the PC, plus some gift cards.”
He added: “That sh*t might end real quick depending on how rowdy it gets.”
Attorney information for Cenat was not immediately available.
This story was updated to include the number of arrests that were made.