Monday, August 30, 2010

The Count

I love counting, ah ah ah, I need something to count. Oh look, people on the National Mall, ah ah ah. I will count them … one rally participant, ah ah ah, two, ah ah ah, five thousand, ah ah, nine hundred thousand, ah ah, one million, ah ah ah

Crowd estimation is not an exact science. In fact it is so difficult that the National Park Service stopped counting crowds during events on the National Mall in 1997, in part because of the controversy surrounding most counts. Things are very political in DC – shocker, I know.

So I’ve heard many estimates of crowd size for the “it’s not really political” political rally Saturday. One reporter who I assume did not get a second opinion reported 250,000, which sounds like slightly less than the organizer’s figure. Their permit was granted for an estimated 300,000. A spirited Republican Representative said it was a million; that’s her story and she’s sticking to it. Hell, the Million Man March a few years ago didn’t even draw a million. Although the Park Service doesn’t officially estimate any more, their unofficial guess was 300,000 – 325,000.

A professional crowd-count company hired by CBS estimated 87,000 and their own stated margin of error allows for the possibility that is was as little as 78,000 and as much as 96,000. I’m betting that was closer to the truth, but I also would not dispute 200,000. A million? That’s pure bullshit!

Metro ridership might be another indicator of crowd size. What I’ve heard: it was extremely crowded, but not as much as the first Clinton inauguration day and not nearly as much as on Obama’s inauguration. I’ll go with those. Ah ah ah.

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