Neigh­bors rally to help af­ter fake-news at­tack

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jes­sica Gresko

wash­ing­ton» There’s at least a slice of good news for a pizza restau­rant in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal caught up in fake-news sto­ries about a child sex-traf­fick­ing ring run by prom­i­nent Democrats.

In the days since a con­spir­acy the­o­rist showed up and fired an as­sault weapon inside Comet Ping Pong, sup­port­ers of the restau­rant have turned out in droves to buy piz­zas and leave home­made signs and flow­ers.

More than 2,000 peo­ple said on Face­book that they’re go­ing to this week­end’s “Stand with Comet” event to sup­port the pizza place and other neigh­bor­hood restau­rants tar­geted by fake-news fa­nat­ics.

John McKeel walked out of Comet Ping Pong on Fri­day car­ry­ing “The Smoky,” with mush­rooms and ba­con, and “The Jimmy,” topped with meat­balls. But McKeel wasn’t just com­ing for the food.

“I had to come to­day” to sup­port the restau­rant, said McKeel, 39, of Alexan­dria, Va.

The Face­book page urged peo­ple to sup­port not only Comet Ping Pong but other nearby stores that have been sub­jected to ha­rass­ing and threat­en­ing on­line com­ments and phone calls since the fake-news sto­ries be­gan spread­ing.

“If they run out of dough to­day, that’d be a good thing,” said Erick Sanchez, the event’s or­ga­nizer.

So many came out Fri­day that peo­ple waited an hour and a half for a ta­ble and carry-out took 45 min­utes. Other lo­cal restau­rants spon­ta­neously sent over wait staff to help. Oth­ers sent food for em­ploy­ees.

The restau­rant also is get­ting sup­port on­line, where a GoFundMe page set up to help it pay for le­gal ex­penses and ex­tra se­cu­rity had passed $15,000, with a goal of $28,000.

In­terim District of Columbia Po­lice Chief Peter New­sham vis­ited Fri­day, with a mes­sage for fak­e­news ped­dlers.

“It’s not funny. It’s se­ri­ous. It can have very, very se­ri­ous con­se­quences,” he said, adding that po­lice are fol­low­ing up on the ha­rass­ment and threats lo­cal busi­nesses have re­ceived.

The man po­lice ar­rested last Sun­day at Comet Ping Pong, Edgar Mad­di­son Welch, has a court hear­ing next week. Po­lice have said the 28-year-old from Sal­is­bury, N.C., fired shots from an AR-15 as­sault weapon af­ter com­ing to “self-in­ves­ti­gate” the con­spir­acy the­ory known as “piz­za­gate.”

He sur­ren­dered peace­fully “when he found no ev­i­dence that un­der­age chil­dren were be­ing har­bored in the restau­rant,” po­lice said.

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