Neil Wolfe is one of about a dozen people gathered along a block of small businesses in suburban Chevy Chase, DC, a town on the northwest border of Washington, DC. “You guys are nuts,” says one passerby, Wolfe fired back through his megaphone: “You’re gonna find out the truth, sir, and then you’re going to feel ashamed for calling us nuts.”
The issue at hand is termed “Pizzagate,” a debunked conspiracy theory purportedly linking John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, and a number of other prominent political figures to a widespread child sex trafficking ring. Its subscribers, who self-refer online as, “investigators,” claim to have evidence that this ring runs covertly out of local businesses in and around Washington, most notably at the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria on Connecticut Avenue.
Despite being repeatedly proven unfounded by a number of sources including Washington Post, New York Times, and Snopes, with DC’s own police calling the accusation “fictitious,” this conspiracy remains an active discussion on anonymous online forums, including 4chan. The story made national headlines last December after 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch fired a rifle inside Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria frequented by area families. Welch later told police he was there to “self-investigate” the purported ring.
“You have to understand that these are the most powerful people in the world that are engaging in child trafficking and child pedophilia,” said Wolfe, in response to a question about the lack of media and political interest over the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy claim. “They’re scared right now, and they control the media, so they’re going to do everything to marginalize us,” he said, “We are coming after you, we will not relent, and you better surrender.”
After an interview, Wolfe cautioned News2Share Producer Ford Fischer against taking his words out of context, promising to make him “famous” if he did so. When Fischer informed him he was recording an unedited livestream in addition to his footage, Wolfe repeated: “Don’t take it out of context or I’ll make you famous, I swear.”
Wolfe and his colleagues handed out brochures to pedestrians with screenshots of Instagram posts and leaked emails Pizzagate propagators cite as evidence. The group was frequently yelled and cursed at. One passerby briefly had a physical altercation with Wolfe, which was quickly broken up by a bystander.
Area residents were less than thrilled at their presence. “If you care about children, you shouldn’t be supporting points of view that lead people to come here with firearms where my child goes to eat,” said one man after being offered a brochure.
Across Connecticut Avenue on a street corner, about four people, a couple masked, captured photos of the Pizzagate group from a distance through long telescopic lenses. When asked about their presence, one woman identified herself as “anti-hate” and said she was there to match faces to anonymous figures engaging in online harassment.
“I just want to get some faces, because they’re just anonymous people on the internet,” she said,“they just assume everybody who doesn’t agree with their bullshit is a pedophile. That’s the new ‘communist,’ you’re a pedophile now.”
“It’s not the red scare,” she added, “it’s the child scare.”
Notably, Saturday’s event was not endorsed by Pizzagate’s main communication channel, where a moderator post discouraged the community from attending the event, citing a possibility of conflict and the “plentiful troll-fuel it would generate.” Another Pizzagate-related protest, likely to be somewhat larger, is planned near the White House on March 25.