Sunday, October 11, 2009

Numbers Game: Crowd Estimates by the

Media For DC Gay Rally

Three experienced crowd-estimators have shared their thoughts with me about how many people were at the rally at the U.S. Capital today.

DC-based gay reporter Bob Roehr said:
At any one point in time there probably were tens of thousands marching. Some people didn't march but found their own way to the Capitol. If one arrived at the assembly point, marched, and stayed to the end of the rally it was about 7 hours. Few people did that, there was a lot of coming and going. I saw some highly costumed folks headed for the Capitol about 4. I'll stick with ~100,000 participated at one point or another.
From Paul Schindler, editor of Gay City News, comes this comment:
As it turned out I was not down there, but many of the folks who were seemed to have been buying into some fairly unbelievable gross-ups of the numbers. The C-Span shots -- and the physical geography the crowd took up -- seem to bear out a number in the low tens of thous ... I would say 20-40K seems reasonable.

The notion that 100-250 K could be fit into an area that barely went past the reflecting pool immediately in front of the capitol seems ridiculous given past Marches on Washington including the 63 event and some of the 1969-70 anti-war moratorium marches.
I think a characterization of "tens of thousands" is what we will likely go with.
Longtime queer civil rights advocate and progressive organizer Bill Dobbs of NYC sent along an excellent survey of crowd estimates by the media for Cleve's rally today. Bill also shared this note:
The links are good for the overall coverage also. 'Tens of thousands' is taking hold as the consensus. Except for the Advocate no one ventured even one hundred thousand. More data on crowd density and how large an area the rally occupied would help. Maybe there will be some aerial shots posted soon. Beyond the crowd figure - which is only an educated guess - what does this mean in the context of other national mobilizations? This may have been smaller than the 1979 attendance which I seem to recall was 100,000 according to the Wash Post.

On the more militant end, the protest at HRC's was something of a test as well - it drew 75 people according to the Washington Blade.

A quick survey of some key outlets: they lean to ‘tens of thousands’ for crowd figure, some going with ‘thousands.’ The Advocate, which erroneously reported Frank Kameny dead some time ago, has the highest figure – 200,000.

AP 7:07pm story

Lede: Tens of thousands of gay rights supporters marched Sunday from the White House to the Capitol, demanding that President Barack Obama keep his promises to allow gays to serve openly in the military and work to end discrimination against gays.

NY Times

Lede: Impatient and discouraged by what they see as a certain detachment by President Obama on their issues, gay rights supporters took to the streets of the capital on Sunday in the largest demonstration for gay rights here in nearly a decade.

Lower: an eager crowd of tens of thousands that gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol Sunday

USA Today

Lede: Thousands of gay and lesbian activists marched on Washington Sunday, the first step in a national effort to grant gays and lesbians equal rights on everything from marriage to serving in the military.

Washington Post

Lede: Tens of thousands of gay rights activists marched past the White House to the Capitol yesterday, demanding the right to marry and serve openly in the U.S. Military.


Lede: Calling for an end to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and equality in marriage, thousands of gay rights supporters marched by the White House and on to the Capitol to rally.

Salt Lake Tribune

Lede: Tens of thousands of gay rights supporters rallied in the nation's capital Sunday, marching from the White House to the Capitol demanding federal action on a whole host of issues from workplace discrimination to marriage.

Home page teaser: Walking the two miles from Dupont Circle to the Capitol Building, some 100,000+ LGBT’s and their allies are on the streets of Washington demanding equal rights.

News story lede: Crowding nearly every corner of the streets between Washington D.C.'s Dupont Circle and the Capitol Building, some 200,000 people gathered for the National Equality March


Brayden said...

Thanks for posting this. I was visiting the Hirschhorn today and decided to stop by the march. I was surprised how close I got to the stage and how thin the crowd was. I sort of felt bad that the crowd didn't even fill the West Lawn of the Capitol. I believe that the number of Metrorail trips will disprove the 250,000 crowd estimate lie.

AndrewW said...

The area that the "crowd" occupied - the Center of the West Lawn was never full or packed. That area is less than 80,000 square feet. Each person takes 3-4 square feet (unless packed like sardines) which means you can only fit about 25,000 people in that area.

It is clear Organizers are inflating numbers by a factor of 10 times. That just hurts their credibility and suggests more support than this event received.

Pebbles said...

I can't say I know the actual dimensions from the interesection of 17th and I at Mchpherson Square to the capital building at Penn & 1st. What I can say is the marchers started at around Noon, but the Square didn't clear up until after 1pm. I know that because the group I was with, was at a standstill in the massess of people until 1pm, when we finally could start to march. My wife and I stayed for the speeches, but not everyone in my group did (many people headed out for dinner since we'ld been gathered and walking around since way before 12pm). Now around 2:15 one of the first speakers mentioned that the march was still going on, and it was about 7 blocks deep so we got up from our spot, which was nowhere near the "center of the west lawn" because we could not get near there, to watch the end of the march. We did, and it definitly put credence to the speakers words that it was 7 blocks deep.
In response to Braydon, the metrorail trips can not be an accurate number. People were being dropped off in the tour buses from early in the morning into DC. My bus (of 60+ people) was one of them, and walking around from 7:30am showed me countless buses that did the same. We might not have hit the millions of people, but there were way more than tens of thousands. I've been to Boston Pride parade and festival which reaches the millions, so I do have some understanding of ####'s of people spilling into a pretty small area (ever been to government center?) and the march was jampacked.
I am not an organizer, but I am a completely disgruntled marcher who is sick and tired of people who did not take time out of their busy schedule to march with us, commenting on the uselessness of our actions.