The 23-year-old was in the hot seat Sunday after several videos emerged of him and his crew at the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall during a raid, sparking outrage among his fans. The videos surfaced as anti-police brutality protests erupted nationwide last week over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in the custody of a white police officer.
Scottsdale police said “millions of dollars in damages and theft occurred during the late-night spasm of violence.” The Phoenix chapter of Black Lives Matter put out a statement saying it was not involved with the incident and expressed concern for the safety of the participants.
Paul, who boasts more than 20 million YouTube subscribers, posted a lengthy explanation on Twitter saying he was “documenting” a peaceful protest for his channel. The Los Angeles resident added that he was trying to raise awareness and did not partake in any vandalism.
“For context, we spent the day doing our part to peacefully protest one of the most horrific injustices our country has ever seen,” he wrote. “I do not condone violence, looting, or breaking the law; however, I understand the anger and frustration that led to the destruction.”
Paul Can Be Seen in Videos Walking Around the Inside of the Mall With Looters in the Background
In a series of now-deleted Instagram story videos posted by Andrew Blue — Jake’s videographer — Jake is shown at a P.F. Chang’s and then around the mall as others begin to vandalize it.
One video shows Paul wearing a white face mask while protesting police outside. He later claimed they were tear-gassed by officers and “forced to keep moving on foot.”
In another video, Paul appears to be walking around the inside of the mall. Looters are seen in the background stealing tennis shoes, smashing windows, tagging walls and leaving with handfuls of merchandise.
Paul and his crew were also seen laughing during several incidents.
The videos prompted a wave of online criticism.
New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz was one of many who shared the viral videos, accusing the YouTuber of “looting” and trashing property.
Others accused Paul and his team of taking advantage of the nationwide protests to gain attention, with one user calling him the “EPITOME OF WHITE MALE PRIVILEGE” who is “CREATING CHAOS JUST FOR CONTENT.”
The Arizona Republic reported 12 people were arrested that night on suspicion of burglary and Paul wasn’t one of them.
While there is no video evidence that the star stole anything, a petition calling for Paul’s arrest had amassed more than 1,300 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
Paul has stayed quiet since putting out his statement and hasn’t shared any videos on his vlog.
Paul Is No Stranger to Controversy
This isn’t Paul’s first run-in with public criticism — despite skirting much of the backlash courted by his older brother, Logan, over the years. The Paul brothers have long-been accused of capitalizing on sensitive news stories to create content.
Paul recently admitted that his brief supposed marriage to YouTube star Tana Mongeau last year was fake, according to Entertainment Tonight, after speculation the nuptials were a publicity stunt.
He also ruffled feathers earlier this year when he alleged that he and former One Direction member Zayn Malik had a tense interaction in Las Vegas. Malik’s model girlfriend, Gigi Hadid, took to Twitter to defend her boyfriend, calling Paul “irrelevant.”