Attendees at a GamerGate meetup evacuated a bar in Washington, DC last night after police showed up in response to a threat, according to people who were there.
Workers at the bar told patrons there was a fire drill, attendees say, but as people left the building, they found police officers standing outside. In various tweets and reports from the meetup, GamerGaters have claimed the cops were there due to a bomb threat, while video footage from one attendee features a police officer acknowledging that there was “an ongoing investigation.” (The video also shows a K-9 bomb squad van at the scene.)
Although DC police were not available to confirm details of last night’s incident when contacted by Kotaku today, attendees’ photos show cops standing outside the bar, Local Sixteen, following an evacuation.
Staff at the bar declined to comment when reached by Kotaku, instead directing us to an e-mail address, though we’ve not yet heard back to questions we sent several hours before publication.
One attendee, Lizzy “lizzyf620” Finnegan (who was once a prominent GamerGate supporter but says she is now no longer involved), told me in an e-mail this afternoon that at first, bar workers told everyone to evacuate for a fire drill, but that as soon as the attendees stepped outside, it became clear something else was happening.
“When we got out front, we were thinking it was a drill so we [stayed] right out front, but there were cops, cars, and officers, and they made us move away from the building,” Finnegan said. “That’s when one of the cops said there had been a ‘serious threat.’”
In addition, a tweet posted last night from a now-deleted account appears to be a pretty clear bomb threat, although it’s unclear whether police were reacting to this tweet, a different threat, or another incident entirely:
This was the first official U.S. get-together for GamerGate, a movement that started last year and whose members regularly campaign against aspects of feminism as well as what they say are ethical problems in video game journalism. Participants in GamerGate frequently use social media to annoy and harass various targets (including many of us here at Kotaku). Outspoken critics like Anita Sarkeesian have also blamed the movement for a great deal of harassment—doxxing and death threats—targeted at various people. Many GamerGate members deny these charges—and some have spoken out against fringe harassers—but given the anonymous, amorphous nature of their campaign, reality is messy, to say the least. Last night’s meetup, from what we can see in photos, was attended by a diverse mix of 200 or so people.
Organizers of the meetup included Christina Hoff Sommers, a professor and critic of contemporary feminism, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer for Breitbart who claimed on Twitter today that this incident involved “a bomb threat from feminists.”
Our own distaste for GamerGate’s methods and social media campaigns has been no secret—and many members of GamerGate have actively worked to destroy Kotaku. A bomb threat against any gathering of people is nonetheless deplorable.
UPDATE (5/3, 8:00am): Based on reader feedback, we’ve updated the mentions of Sommers’ and GamerGate’s dispositions regarding feminism.
UPDATE 2 (5/3, 3:16pm): Polygon confirmed with a police spokesperson that the evacuation was in response to a bomb threat on Twitter. We’ve updated our headline accordingly.
UPDATe 3 (5/4, 4:17pm): The DC police have sent over the following statement:
On Friday, May 1, 2015 at 9:30 pm the Metropolitan Police Department received information from the FBI in reference to an individual posting on Twitter that a bomb would be detonated inside of 1602 U Street, NW (Local 16 restaurant and bar) if the event they were having was not postponed . The establishment was hosting a gaming event.
MPD contacted management at the establishment, and the decision was made by the management to evacuate the location and check for hazardous devices. The establishment was evacuated and the premises was then swept for hazardous materials with nothing found.
The incident remains under investigation.