WASHINGTON - A D.C. community has come out in support of a local pizza restaurant after a gunman showed up and fired an assault rifle last weekend in an attempt to investigate conspiracy theories spread online and through social media that were associated with the restaurant.
A #StandWithComet fundraising event was held Friday at Comet Ping Pong and long lines of customers were seen waiting on the sidewalk along Connecticut Avenue outside of the pizzeria during the lunch and dinner hours.
The idea of this event was to draw more customers than usual to help Comet Ping Pong raise money to help pay for the damage that was caused when the accused gunman Edgar Maddison Welch went into the pizza shop on Sunday and fired an AR-15 rifle inside, which caused customers and employees to flee the restaurant and a police standoff.
Police said Welch told officers that he was self-investigating online rumors known as #PizzaGate that started before the presidential election that there were satanic rituals and a child sex trafficking ring being operating by Hillary Clinton and her campaign inside of the restaurant. D.C. police and the FBI have said that these claims have been proven to be false.
“There's nothing here, it's completely fictitious,” Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham. “This is a great business and the fact that anyone would continue to perpetuate that lie, it's a little unsettling. But we’ve got to tell those folks, ‘Listen it's not funny and you need to stop.’”
The business was closed in the aftermath of the incident and reopened on Tuesday.
The fundraiser is also using the money raised to help make up for the restaurant’s lost business and the additional security Comet Ping Pong has been hired.
“One thing that I've been saying – if this future incoming administration wants to get serious about standing up to fake news, right now up the street, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is a neighbor of the community, and if he wants to get serious about ending this epidemic, I think he needs to come down here and show his support for Comet,” said organizer Erick Sanchez.
“I just wanted to come out and show the community supports everybody here, that we do not accept this harassment,” said one customer.
This was originally going to be a one-day event, but because there were so many people interested that caused the restaurant to reach capacity, the fundraiser will continue for the rest of the weekend.
There is also a GoFundMe page created to help raise money for Comet Ping Pong. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/financial-support-for-comet-staff
A show of support is taking place for a D.C. restaurant where last weekend a gunman fired an assault rifle inside as he attempted to "self-investigate" a conspiracy theory known online as "Pizzagate."
The #StandWithComet event at Comet Ping Pong in northwest D.C. began on Friday and will continue through Sunday, December 11.
The event encourages everyone to show their support to the restaurant by eating there this weekend.
Comet Ping Pong reopened Tuesday afternoon following Sunday's incident. Police say 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch drove to Washington D.C from his home in North Carolina. When Welch arrived the pizza restaurant, police say he fired an AR-15 assault rifle multiple times inside, but later walked out with his hands up and unarmed, leaving his weapons inside. No one was injured.
According to court documents, Welch told police "he had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and that he wanted to see for himself if they were there." He said he "was armed to help rescue them" and "surrendered peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant."
The bizarre rumors began with a leaked email referencing Hillary Clinton and sinister interpretations of references to pizza parties. It morphed into fake online news stories about a child sex trafficking ring run by prominent Democrats operating out of the Washington, D.C., pizza joint.
Both D.C. Police and the FBI have told FOX 5 that they are aware of the claims and they are false. D.C. Police called Pizzagate "a fictitious online conspiracy theory."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.