On May 29, Lewis Arthur and Veterans on Patrol (VOP)—a Tucson area charity that helps homeless veterans—stumbled upon a makeshift homeless shelter and decided it was a child sex trafficking dungeon. Arthur and company found a barbie doll, straps on a tree they said were used to bind children, Playboy magazines, a stroller, and an empty septic tank. According to Arthur and the group, these were the markers of a child sex trafficking operation.
Now, the group is patrolling interstate 19 in Arizona and demanding that authorities declare a state of emergency. Conspiracy theorists on the internet have pointed to the VOP operation and the discovery of the camp as proof of the Qanon conspiracy theory, which claims that a cabal of shadowy groups funded by various elements of the Democratic party are running a worldwide child sex slave trafficking operation. It's like Pizzagate combined with The DaVinci Code. A representative of the Tucson Police Department told Motherboard over the phone that an investigation of the area revealed no evidence of human trafficking.
The conspiracy theory started on 4chan's /pol/ board in October of last year when an anonymous user started posting cryptic messages. The user claimed to be a highly placed government official who was sitting on a wealth of information about the sex cult. From there, it gets complicated.
Qanon has been percolating on the internet for a year now and it's a weird conspiracy theory that has no shreds of actual evidence behind it. But that doesn't stop people from believing it. And—as Pizzagate showed when a shooter showed up at a pizza parlor in Washington DC with a rifle—internet conspiracies can have real-world consequences.
Arthur and his team didn't begin the hunt for pedophiles with Qanon in mind, but Arthur has thanked the Qanon community in several videos and, on June 3, the VOP's official Facebook page posted a link to a Qanon 8Chan thread. "Post all photos gathered as evidence," the post said. The 8chan thread contained numerous references to Qanon, the Illuminati, and the occult.