Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us
Aerial photo of Area 51
|Date||September 20, 2019|
|Location||Lincoln County, Nevada|
|Also known as||Raid Area 51, Storm Area 51|
|Motive||Find extraterrestrial life|
|Outcome||No attempt to raid|
"Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us", commonly referred to as Raid Area 51 or Storm Area 51, was a Facebook event that took place on September 20, 2019, at Area 51, a United States Air Force (USAF) facility within the Nevada Test and Training Range, to raid the site in a search for extraterrestrial life. More than 2 million people responded "going" and 1.5 million "interested" on the event's page, which subsequently attracted widespread media reaction and made the event become an Internet meme. The event was created by Matty Roberts on June 27, 2019, who confirmed the event was purely comedic and disavowed responsibility for any casualties were there any actual attempts to raid the military base.
Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said government officials were briefed on the event and discouraged people from attempting to enter military property. Nevada law enforcement also warned potential participants in the event against trespassing. The event, although intended as a joke, had an effect on businesses both locally in Nevada and around the United States, which prepared products for visitors for those attending the event.
In Lincoln County, Nevada, two music festivals were also planned: Alienstock in Rachel, Nevada and Storm Area 51 Basecamp in Hiko, Nevada. Local governments and police feared that even these legal events could be problematic if too many people showed up. Alienstock was cancelled by Roberts due to poor planning and planned for it to be relocated to Las Vegas, although the Little A'Le'Inn owner Connie West attempted to continue with the name in Rachel. Roberts' lawyers sent her a cease and desist regarding use of the name.
On the day of the event, about 150 people were reported to have shown up at the entrance to Area 51, with none succeeding in entering the site; an estimated 1,500 attended the related festivals. One arrest was made for trespassing.
Area 51 has been the subject of many conspiracy theories regarding aliens since the 1950s, when some individuals reported seeing UFOs at the location of the base, around the time the military started flying CIA U2 spy planes in the area. The CIA declassified documents related to Area 51 and recognized its existence in 2013. Conspiracy theorists believe aliens, UFOs, or secrets related to them are stored at Area 51. In June 2019, The Pentagon provided a briefing on UFOs encountered by Navy pilots to members of Congress. U.S. President Donald Trump had also been briefed on UFOs.
College student Matty Roberts, the creator of the event, came up with the idea after watching Area 51 conspiracy theorist Bob Lazar and filmmaker Jeremy Corbell on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast on June 20, 2019.
Facebook event and Internet meme
Matty Roberts, also known as video game streamer SmyleeKun, created the event on Facebook on June 27 as a joke, unaware of the viral attention the event would receive. The event plans for the raid in Amargosa Valley from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. PDT on September 20, 2019. The Facebook event writes, "If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets [sic] see them aliens", referring to the unique running style of anime character Naruto Uzumaki and several other characters, who run with their arms stretched behind them, head down and torso tilted forward. Roberts said the event had only around 40 signatures three days into the event's listing and then suddenly went viral. The meme possibly spread first on the app TikTok, as well as Reddit and Instagram later. The Facebook page for the event is filled with thousands of satirical posts discussing the best way to break into Area 51. After the viral spread of the meme, Roberts was worried that he would receive a visit from the FBI. The event received 2 million "Going" and another 1.5 million "Interested" signatures as of August 22. Roberts has since made plans to organize a music festival based on the event known as "Alienstock".
Copycat events such as plans to storm a genealogical vault of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Loch Ness, and the Bermuda Triangle have also been created. In the Netherlands, a left-wing meme page known as "Memes for the Masses" created "Storm the Education Implementation Office Headquarters" event as a protest to student loans.
As of September 23, 2019, due to low number of participants at Area 51 with having no attempts to start the raid, and the high concentration of participants of the Alienstock festival events, the name of the Facebook event page created by Roberts was changed to "Official Alienstock Tour" and it was planned to take place on September 18-20, 2020.
On July 10, speaking with The Washington Post, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said officials were aware of the event, and issued a warning saying: "[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces", adding that "[t]he U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets". A public information officer at Nellis Air Force Base told KNPR that "any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged". A viral Reddit post showed what it claimed to be an (unclassified, "as a joke") Air Force briefing on the Naruto run. The FBI also stated that they would be monitoring the situation and "the [number of people] that may be coming to these events".
The events surrounding the storm prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to post two temporary flight restrictions, closing the airspace above two places nearby Area 51 during the days surrounding the planned raid.
The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS), the military's public relations office, made a controversial tweet implying the use of bomber aircraft on trespassers. The tweet has since been deleted, and the DVIDS also tweeted an apology.
While intended as comedic, some people took the event seriously, and traveled to the surrounding areas themselves. Beginning September 19, the day before the planned event date, people were reported to be showing up and camping around Rachel in preparation for the raid.
The Lincoln County Sheriff stated about 1,500 people showed up at the festivals, while over 150 people made the journey over several miles of rough roads to get near the gates to Area 51.
In August 2019, Lincoln County officials drafted an emergency declaration and a plan to pool resources with neighboring counties, anticipating the region being overwhelmed by a crowd of 40,000 people. The county has just 184 hotel rooms, and officials expected the local cellphone network to be unable to cope with the additional traffic; they also expressed concerns about overcrowding at campsites, gas stations, and public medical facilities. Both planned music festivals were granted permits by the county. County sheriff Kerry Lee said an extra 300 paramedics and 150 police officers would be brought in from across Nevada.
The town of Rachel posted a caution on its website, advising attendees to be "experienced in camping, hiking and surviving in a harsh desert environment and have a vehicle in good shape". They advised that the town would likely be unable to provide sufficient food, water or gas to visitors, and expected local law enforcement to be "overwhelmed". The website warned that local residents would be ready to "step up to protect their property", adding that "[i]t will get ugly" and predicting that Alienstock would be "Fyre Festival 2.0".
Business owners in and around Rachel, Nevada, a town of just 56 people just outside of the base, made preparations for visitors who want to go to Area 51. Connie West, co-owner of the Little A'Le'Inn restaurant and inn, had all 13 rooms of the inn booked and planned to open up 30 acres for camping and said she might create merchandise for the event. Las Vegas businessman George Harris was planning to hire bands to play at an annual festival called "The Swarm". Kosmic Kae, owner of the shop Aliens R Us in Boulder City, said that even though the shop is 170 miles away from Area 51, business had increased due to fascination regarding aliens.
In Lincoln County, Nevada, two music festivals were also planned: Alienstock in Rachel, Nevada, and Storm Area 51 Basecamp in Hiko, Nevada. However, local governments and police feared that even these legal events might be problematic if too many people showed up. In July, Matty Roberts first expressed interest in a music festival to be made outside Area 51, in what would eventually become Alienstock. In mid-September, Roberts announced on his website that Alienstock was canceled due to poor planning, concerns of safety and legality, and lack of infrastructure, adding that he feared a "possible humanitarian disaster"; he also said the event would be relocated to Las Vegas in reduced form and renamed Area 51 Celebration. However, Little A'Le'Inn owner Connie West said the original Alienstock plans would proceed, adding in an interview that "there's nothing I can do to stop it". Roberts' lawyers sent her a cease and desist letter regarding the use of the "Alienstock" name.
Other businesses around the U.S. based products and services on this event. A collection of merchandise related to the event from online retailers was launched. Bud Light planned to release a promotional alien-themed beer label and promised a free beer to "any alien that makes it out" as long as a tweet with the new design gets 51,000 retweets. Fast food restaurant Arby's has planned to deliver food with a special menu to the event.
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