Saturday, September 12, 2009

9/12 Protests May Set Record

I wondered how attendance at the 9/12 March On DC compared with other protests in DC. So I went to Wikipedia-- yes, not the most reliable source, but I was looking for back-of-the-envelope type figures-- to see if I could figure out what the largest protests there were. I figured I'd allow any sort of estimate, just for fun, including organizer estimates that tend to be on the high side. I know it's hard to estimate crowds, especially when people come and go instead of coming at the beginning and staying till the end. Media organizations often get their estimates too low for various non-bias reasons. [I've commented before (though not here, I think) that media estimates of Tea Party events in Salt Lake City were low despite a politically friendly media, because the media came and shot their video and made their estimates in the first half-hour of the event but people were streaming in and leaving after it had been going for an hour, so the local media only counted those who came on time.]

I had figured there would be at least one really big (defined by me as having a top estimate of 500,000+) anti-Iraq War protest, since that issue got a lot of attention. The Guinness Book Of Records evidently recorded 3 million in attendance at an anti-Iraq War rally in Rome. But the four largest protests in DC thatI could find on Wikipedia were an anti-Vietnam War protest at about 500,000, an LGBT protest for equal rights (300,000-1 million), the Million Man March in 1995 (estimates 400,000-1 million, with an independent estimate around 850,000) and the pro-choice March For Women's Lives at 500,000-1.15 million. In the latter three cases the high estimates came from event organizers, and the low estimates from law enforcement and media. Media estimates of the 9/12 March On DC are coming in as high as 2 million, though I can't find a source for the 2 million claim. What is clear, though, is that this protest is somewhere in the ballpark with the two biggest DC protests ever.

That being said, you don't have to be a particularly big protest to make history. The Bonus Army, that I remember from my high school history class, was only about 40,000 strong. Notable among all these protests is that very, very few of them are for what you might consider conservative causes. Today's protest is certainly the largest of that sort.