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Scenes from the Teen Twitch-Induced Level-Four NYPD Mobilization in Union Square

We will not pretend to know exactly what caused this, but it happened.

7:36 PM EDT on August 4, 2023

Tween meet-up. (Hell Gate)

A languid summer Friday in August took on an air of gleeful terror in Union Square this afternoon as hundreds of tweens, teens, and possibly some scattered adults, packed into the park and surrounding streets to… get a free PlayStation? 

Here's what we've been told by the youth—Twitch streamer Kai Cenat, who has a following in the millions, was going to stream live and give away a few PlayStation 5 consoles. It did not go quite as planned—the assorted young people descended, Cenat appeared to make a quick and possibly dangerous getaway with kids hanging off his speeding car and going flying, and then there were a lot of people just hanging out, with nothing to do but dance around with each other, get hype, and all hold up their phones at once. 

(Hell Gate)

When Hell Gate arrived at the scene, the NYPD was trying to figure out how to make their entrance and get these kids out of the park, but they were exacerbating the already tense situation with a number of low-flying helicopters. 

(Hell Gate)

Some of the kids had massed around the poor halal food truck on the corner of 14th Street and Broadway, and were throwing bottles at a few of the cops. But mostly the crowd was just jumping up and shouting "hey!", taking photos of themselves, and filming everything. A bunch of teens climbed up on the under-construction Union Square subway station pergola, which now probably needs further repairs. The cops pushed many of the teens out into the street, and then surged dramatically through the park itself, while a drone flew overhead, piloted by six cops who were standing around.

"It's not that deep, bro," said one onlooker as cops marched in a phalanx towards the crowd. 

(Hell Gate)

A few teens threw more water bottles and planters at the cops, and a few set off fireworks before dispersing into the nearby streets. On St. Marks Place, young people talked to each other in excited tones about what they had just been a part of, absentmindedly fiddling with the CitiBikes in the area (which Lyft had disabled, for whatever reason). 

At Union Square, Mohamed Ramadan and his business partner picked up the pieces of their halal food cart. An hour earlier, kids were jumping on top of it while they were locked inside.The condiments from the outside had been stolen and the generator was busted. The lock on the sliding doors for the drinks held, though. After peace prevailed, they tried to get the grill going again to no avail, but they say they'll be serving food the rest of the night. They've been running the truck for over twenty years, they told me. "We have no choice," Ramadan said. "What can I do? I have to work."

(Hell Gate)

If you're in Union Square whenever it does reopen, maybe buy some stuff from them. They've had an afternoon. 

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