The City of Austin and Austin Police Department are stepping in to help a local business that has become a target of a fake news conspiracy.
East Side Pies has been operating in Austin for nearly 11 years, but several weeks ago one of the owners realized they had somehow been tied to a fake news story out of Washington, D.C.
Co-owner Noah Polk tells KVUE the threats began to escalate on their East Side Pies’ Facebook page, and it intensified over the weekend when pod-caster Owen Shroyer from InfoWars.com made a YouTube post about the #pizzagate scandal and East Side Pies.
"I fully went there not expecting anything at all. Okay sure, the logo's weird, sure there's some weird stuff on the menu but what are the odds I'm going to run into anything weird at East Side Pies,” Shroyer starts off in the video.
He went on to say he was convinced that East Side Pies was involved with the debunked #pizzagate conspiracy because of their “weird music” and “weird employees,” among other things.
Then, on Tuesday, Polk realized one of their pizza delivery vans had been vandalized with a statement in reference to the #pizzagate theory that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child-sex ring at a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant.
Polk called Austin Police detectives and made a report for both threats and criminal mischief.
APD tells KVUE that they are questioning a person in relation to the threats and criminal mischief but as of Wednesday night, that person has not been charged with the East Side Pies report.
APD did confirm that the person they are questioning is in custody for unrelated charges out of Pflugerville.
For now, the City of Austin is stepping in to help support East Side Pies. Communications Director Jason Stanford and a crisis-management expert are working with the owners to ensure they do not become further targets of a fake news story.
“Everyone in the office wanted to help because East Side Pies is an Austin institution and the mayor has made clear that people in Austin take care of each other,” said Stanford.
They are also taking the threats seriously after a man fired his gun in the Washington, D.C. pizza parlor over the weekend that was at the center of #pizzagate.
"We wanted to get ahead of the problem: you don't want to respond to a shooting, you want to prevent a shooting,” said Stanford.
East Side Pies is also debuting a new Anti-Bullying Special. They are letting customers add a dollar to every pizza sold to go toward the East Austin non-profit Creative Action, which helps support anti-bullying efforts and after-school programs in and around Austin.
You can learn more about Creative Action here.