Saturday, 11 Jul 2020

Storm Area 51: They stopped ‘all of us,’ but couldn‘t kill the memes

The original Facebook plan to storm Area 51 was brilliant in its simplicity.

More than two million people would run full-tilt at the secretive government facility, dodging bullets in a “Naruto run” posture until they could breach the doors and rescue the aliens supposedly trapped inside.

“They can’t stop all of us,” creator Matty Roberts wrote in the Facebook event’s description.

He was wrong.

A man poses as if he is going to “Naruto run” at an entrance to Area 51 as an influx of tourists responded to a call to ‘storm’ Area 51, a secretive U.S. military base near Rachel, Nev., on September 20, 2019.

Roberts’ original pie-in-the-sky plan turned into a handful of music festivals in the Nevada desert last weekend, where the actual crowds were well below the expected invasion force.

Local authorities had been expecting some 30,000 visitors over the weekend, with most of the festivities centred around Alienstock in Rachel, Nev., the tiny town of 54 people that’s closest to Area 51. The local county even dipped into its $250,000 emergency fund to prepare for an influx of alien-loving invaders that never really materialized.

The crowd in Rachel maxed out at about 3,000 people on Friday night, leaving several bands playing on a makeshift stage before a largely empty desert, The Associated Press reports. A secondary concert in Hiko, Nev., attracted just 500 people, police said. The venue closed up its festivities early due to low attendance.

“We put on a safe event for the people that showed up,” said Keith Wright, a promoter for the Area 51 Basecamp event in Hiko. “It was a gamble financially. We lost.”

Rachel resident Connie West, who ran Alienstock out of her Little A’Le’Inn, declared her event a success on Sunday. She also thumbed her nose at Roberts, her former business partner who split with her earlier this month amid concerns that the concert would be a catastrophe. Roberts held his own alien-themed celebration in Las Vegas on Thursday.

“This is the most fabulous time,” West said on Sunday. “It’s been a great turnout, and it wasn’t the humanitarian disaster that everyone claimed it would be.”

Only a few dozen people actually showed up outside the Area 51 gates at the original raid time, which was slated for the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. on Sept. 20. In the end, most of the “raiders” simply waved signs demanding freedom for the aliens supposedly trapped at Area 51 or practiced their Naruto runs.

A group of approximately 20 people “acted like they were going to storm” early Saturday, but ultimately stopped short of the gate, according to Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee.

Officials say only six people actually breached the Area 51 perimeter, and all of them were arrested on misdemeanour trespassing charges. Each person faces a US$1,000 fine for the failed attempt.

Lee said a 60-year-old woman boldly declared her intentions before becoming the first trespasser at the Area 51 gate near Rachel on Friday.

“She told us she was going to trespass,” Lee told the Reno Gazette Journal. “It was something she wanted to do, and she walked across.”

One person was arrested for public urination at the Area 51 gates, and another was arrested for disorderly conduct at one of the festivals.

No one died, although two cars did strike and kill cows in separate incidents on the desert highway.

There was also a mysterious disappearance at the Area 51 gates, although that, too, turned out to be entirely terrestrial. The missing man was found safe on Friday.

Despite the lacklustre showing, people still celebrated the event with tweets about the attack and the subsequent hijinks they had planned for any newly liberated aliens.

Perhaps the highlight of the entire internet-fuelled event was one lonely figure who staged a Naruto run through a live broadcast on Thursday afternoon.

An alien enthusiast demonstrates a Naruto run, right, behind an ABC News reporter in Rachel, Nev., on Sept. 19, 2019.

The moment has already been immortalized in a painting.

The concertgoers ultimately came and left in peace, while the imprisoned aliens — if there were any — remained as secret as ever.

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