NEW YORK (AP) — 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 supposed videogame console giveaway that got out of hand.
Aerial TV news footage Friday showed a surging, tightly packed crowd climbing on vehicles, hurling chairs, throwing punches and scaling structures in the park. Shouting teenagers swung objects at car windows and ran through the streets.
Traffic was blocked by the crowd on several streets. A growing number of police officers could be seen trying to control the gathering. Some people climbed on top of a moving vehicle, falling off as it sped away. Others pounded on the side of a city bus. People could be seen climbing on top of another bus and jumping up and down.
The NYPD didn’t immediately have information on injuries or arrests. Numerous people could be seen in hand restraints, sitting on the sidewalks. A young man was seen in hand restraints being led away by two officers. Police were forming lines in the street, trying to direct the crowd, which periodically broke out in a run.
On his Instagram feed, the streamer Kai Cenat had an image promoting a giveaway at 4 p.m. Friday in the park. Some young people leaving the park said they had come expecting a giveaway of a computer for livestreaming and a new PlayStation.
Skylark Jones, 19, and a friend had come to the area to see Cenat and try to get something from his giveaway, which they said was promoted as a chance to get gaming consoles or even a gaming chair, as well as an opportunity to see the popular streamer.
When they got there, the scene was already packed and they saw bottles being thrown by people in the crowd. There was a commotion even before Cenat appeared, they said.
“It was a movie,” Jones said. Police “came with riot shields, charging at people.”
A young man who would only give his name as Angel said he had been there since 11:30 a.m. He said at one point, it was so crowded in the park that he feared he could not breathe, so he moved toward the periphery.
Cenat, 21, is a video creator with 6.5 million followers on the platform Twitch, where he regularly livestreams. He also boasts 4 million subscribers on YouTube, where he posts daily life and comedy vlogs ranging from “Fake Hibachi Chef Prank!” to his most recent video, “I Rented Us Girlfriends In Japan!”
His 299 YouTube videos have amassed more than 276 million views among them. In December, he was crowned streamer of the year at the 12th annual Streamy Awards. Messages sent to his publicist, management company and email address for business inquiries were not immediately returned.
Police, some with batons, were using metal barricades to try to push the crowd back and using loudspeakers to warn the crowd, “This gathering is unlawful. You are ordered to disperse.”
Associated Press writers Brooke Lansdale, Mallika Sen, Deepti Hajela, Mallika Sen and Karen Matthews contributed to this report.