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Area 51 Facebook joke takes nation by storm

Twenty-year-old Matty Roberts was about to find out how quickly a joke can become reality when he posted a Facebook event out of boredom titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.”

The event to storm Area 51 was created at 2 a.m. on June 27 and gained 3,000 Facebook likes in less than a week. By mid July, over 2 million people RSVP’d to attend with 1.5 million “interested.”

People were saying they believed Roberts to have come up with an ingenious idea to storm and expose rumored secrets of aliens and spaceships supposedly stored in the military base. 

Fifty-four percent of U.S. adults found it likely that the U.S. government knew more than it was telling the public about UFOs, a YouGov poll showed in June.

Raid participants Naruto-running at the event | Photo courtesy of Jim Urquhart/Reuters

“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” the Facebook event said. “If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”

As Sept. 20 approached, many YouTubers and enthusiasts drove toward Area 51 in anticipation of the event. YouTube’s LDG station, along with many others, live-streamed the event and people getting ready to storm, with many dressed in alien costumes holding up cardboard signs like “Save E.T. from the government.”

According to Mick Akers from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, about 100 people gathered and stood outside the gates of Area 51 beginning late Thursday night, Sept. 19, until early morning Friday, Sept. 20. 

Photo courtesy of Jim Urquhart/Reuters

The Area 51 raid became such a viral phenomenon that the U.S. Air Force issued a warning saying, “Any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged.”

“It’s public land,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee. “They’re allowed to go to the gate, as long as they don’t cross the boundary.”

According to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, 10 days before the raid two Dutch tourists were caught and arrested on charges of trespassing the Department of Energy land near Area 51. One person was arrested for public urination and another detained at a gate to Area 51 on Sept. 20, according to the Lincoln County Authorities. 

In a video tweeted by David Montero, a Los Angeles Times national correspondent, some participants of the raid were shown Naruto running—a style of run portrayed in a Japanese anime series—at the back gate, but none of them actually breached the security barrier.

After Roberts got a visit from the FBI, the raid turned into an outdoor music festival called AlienStock in Rachel, Nevada. But with just over a week before the official date, Roberts canceled the festival.

Photo courtesy of Jim Urquhart/Reuters

“Due to the lack of infrastructure, poor planning, risk management and blatant disregard for the safety of the expected 10,000+ AlienStock attendees, we decided to pull the plug on the festival,” said Roberts and his team. “We are not interested in, nor will we tolerate any involvement in, a FYREFEST 2.0.”

Roberts instead planned a new free event called Area 51 Celebration at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on Sept. 19.

Thousands showed up to the AlienStock music festival outside of Area 51 in the nearby town of Rachel, and about another thousand people attended the Area 51 Celebration hosted by Matty Roberts in Las Vegas.

Featured photo courtesy of Jim Urquhart/Reuters