Tuesday, April 11, 2006

American Protests - the (Other) Impossible Number.

We recently wrote about the French tradition to give two different figures of demonstrators - those of the organizers and those of the police, and guess what? they are always different and always different in the same way.
Well, it looks like it's very much the same in the U.S. according to this Los Angeles Times article:
Juan Carlos Ruiz, coordinator for the National Capital Immigration Coalition, said organizers, in trying to estimate the size of the crowd on the Mall, tried to count the numbers arriving on buses and exiting the subway. They lost count at 400,000, he said.
"The Mall is full from corner to corner," Ruiz said.
No official crowd numbers were available, but other estimates indicated that the size was smaller than the organizers' figure. A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Washington Post that at least 100,000 people were present.
The major difference with French demonstrations:
  • the numbers are more impressive (there were recently as many as between 1 and 3 million of French people demonstrating)
  • the French police do not talk to the media 'on condition of anonymity' but issue official (but just as false) statements.
Here's a bit of historical background with regard to counting protesters in the US (still in the same LATimes article):
The National Park Service stopped giving official estimates after a dispute over the number attending the Million Man March in 1995; the park service said that about 400,000 were present, whereas independent analyses using aerial photos and grids put the figure at more than 870,000.
More than 600,000 protested the Vietnam War in a 1969 rally on the Mall
About 250,000 attended the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech in 1963.
In recent years, the largest unofficial crowd estimate was 750,000 for the 2004 March for Women's Lives.
As for the other numbers of yesterday's demosntration throughout the US:
Crowds at the immigration rallies in other cities appeared to be smaller than in Washington, with police reporting 50,000 each in Atlanta and Phoenix and 20,000 in New York.

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