Scores of friends and neighbors have been turning out to support a D.C. pizzeria that's getting pounded by online bullies and conspiracy theorists.
Comet Ping-Pong has been hammered by thousands of threats, and bizarre, unsubstantiated tales about child sex trafficking. And the salacious myths are hitting nearby businesses too.
But now supporters are rushing to the pizzeria’s defense.
“Coming here is one of several small acts of resistance I can do to keep myself sane in an increasingly insane and moronic environment,” said supporter Ian Eppler.
Someone has posted a sign next to the front door that read, “We support Comet Ping Pong.”
Under the hashtag #PizzaGate, the vandals are spreading an imaginary story that the popular Northwest D.C. pizza shop is the center of a child sex slave ring organized by Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager.
“Whenever I see this is done, I'm going to become a regular customer,” said Joel Swerdlow. “You want to give someone business, attack them like this, they've got my business.”
The conspiracy theory may sound absurd, but it has won over lots of believers, who keep turning up at the restaurant looking for enslaved children.
“They putting a lot of curses and spells over the city,” said a woman who declined to give her name. “All this underground tunnel that helps them take the kids and transport them back and forth so they can do these rituals.”
She pounded on the wood patio in front of the restaurant.
The user-generated news site Reddit has now shut down the PizzaGate thread, and said it will not be a party to witchhunts.
But the attacks have already spread to several other nearby restaurants, like Terasole, apparently singled out because it had a picture of Clinton on its website. The threats and bullying have also hit the Politics and Prose bookstore, which is just a few doors down.
“These guys are putting in hours and hours of work to casually destroy people,” said Comet Ping Pong general manager Bryce Reh. “They don't thing we really exist and they're really doing harm.”
The hackers have pilfered Instagram pictures of young children having fun at the restaurant and somehow twisted them into evidence of abuse. The online thugs said they're trying to protect kids, but instead they're exploiting them, actually putting their faces on the web as sexual assault victims.
An FBI spokeswoman said she can neither confirm nor deny an investigation of the attacks on Comet Ping Pong.