UNION SQUARE, Manhattan (WABC) — Thousands of people overran Union Square Park and surrounded lanes of traffic Friday as a popular Twitch streamer held a video game giveaway.
Just before 5 p.m. police said they were gaining the upper hand on the crowd as many people began to disperse.
NYPD sources told Eyewitness News they did not want to arrest people and they did not want to escalate the situation further.
Despite that guidance, Eyewitness News observed several arrests being made as prisoners were loaded unto an MTA bus.
The department had initiated a level 4 mobilization which would deploy up to 1,000 officers to the scene.
Over the last few days, Kai Cenat, one of the most popular streamers on the video game streaming website Twitch, announced that he would give away Playstation 5 video game consoles at 4 p.m. in Union Square.
Thousands of people showed up and took over the park and the roads bordering it as police struggled to contain them.
NYPD flooded the scene and pushed the crowd away, making sure they didn’t come back toward Union Square.
Robert Boyce, former NYPD Chief of Detectives, said that its important to “understand that the streams of kids running away from people, they could create mayhem somewhere else, they have to be followed.”
He added, “this isn’t over by a long shot, there’s a lot of work ahead.”
Upon first arriving over the scene, Eyewitness News reporter Shannon Sohn in Newscopter 7 reported seeing a group of police officers holding up pieces of plywood and taking cover behind cars that were stuck on 14th Street because of the crowd as they were pelted by objects thrown from the mass of people.
There was construction happening near the 14th Street subway station and people in the crowd had grabbed and were throwing paint cans and other equipment.
Several people climbed on top of the gazebo which covers the subway as well as the George Washington Statue, which depicts the former president riding a horse.
The MTA announced that 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, and W subway trains were all bypassing Union Square station. Service has since resumed.
A number of drivers were trapped in their cars as they were surrounded by the crowd and 14th Street was shut down as police set up a barricade of officers.
The sheer number of people and their seeming desire to get a glimpse of Cenat and a group of people with him which created a dangerous situation of masses of people moving and shoving.
Later, an SUV believed to be carrying Cenat drove away from the scene on 17th Street while about a dozen people were hanging on the side and clinging to the top of the SUV.
Many of them were seen falling from the vehicle.
Shortly after that, a bus on 14th Street became the focus of a large part of the crowd, with some people climbing on top of the bus, as they seemed to believe Cenat was inside.
Police officers could be seen taking some people into custody outside the bus and video later showed people inside the bus, apparently handcuffed.
While police worked to set up a barricade, hundreds of people ran away from the scene down Broadway.
An NYPD loudspeaker could be heard instructing people in the crowd to disperse and warning them that if they didn’t, they would be arrested.
The crowd finally appeared to begin to disperse around 4:45 p.m.
Eyewitness News has learned that NYPD detectives are aware of Cenat’s location and will be interviewing him.
This is breaking news. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
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