Giveaways serve as effective tools for influencers and celebrities to boost their visibility, engage with fans and expand their follower base. But for those following the recent giveaway that sparked mayhem in the streets of New York City (NYC), it is evident that preparation prior to live-event prize promotions is critical.
So, how did an innocent giveaway intended to show appreciation to fans trigger a level 4 disaster response from the New York Police Department (NYPD)?
A popular live-streamer with a collective social media following of over 20 million took to social media to announce he will be giving away free PlayStation 5 consoles, gift cards and other items in NYC’s Union Square Park at 4 p.m. on Aug. 5. By 1 p.m., crowds had already started gathering at Union Square Park. The NYPD soon became aware of the giveaway, but by 3 p.m., more than 2,000 individuals had already gathered at Union Square Park. Despite the efforts of roughly 1000 police officers, chaos nonetheless erupted. The ensuing chaos saw people climbing atop vehicles and subway stations, obstructing traffic, setting off fireworks and even engaging in violent behavior. The situation escalated further, culminating in clashes between attendees – many of whom were teenagers – and the NYPD. By 5:30 p.m., the event ended with injuries to police officers and civilians and resulted in dozens of arrests. The streamer was ultimately arrested and charged with felony first-degree rioting, as well as a misdemeanor for inciting a riot and unlawful assembly.
This incident serves as a stark reminder that orchestrating live-event prize promotions requires a comprehensive assessment of potential risks and the implementation of responsible planning and coordination with relevant authorities. If done carelessly, a giveaway’s sponsor can be subject to civil and criminal liability.