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My Non-Guess Head Count for End the War Rally In Washington - 9/24/05

GUESSED COUNTS: The Washington Times on Sunday September 25th reported: "Demonstrators Assail President, War In Iraq... "Police declined to estimate the size of the crowd, but Chief Ramsey, noting organizers had hoped to draw 100,000, said, "I think they probably hit that."

The Washington Post on Sunday October 25th reported: "Antiwar Fervor Fills the Streets........Protest organizers estimated that 300,000 people participated, triple their original target. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who walked the march route, said the protesters achieved the goal of 100,000 and probably exceeded it. Asked whether at least 150,000 showed up, the chief said, "That's as good a guess as any."

The New York Times on Sunday October 25th reported: "Antiwar Rallies in Washington and Other Cities.... "A sea of anti-administration signs and banners flashed back at a long succession of speakers, who sharply rebuked the administration for continuing a war that has cost the lives of nearly 2,000 Americans and many more Iraqis." "As protesters moved from the rally to a march around the White House, they packed city streets, and in some areas, came face to face with groups of pro-administration demonstrators, who held up signs expressing support for the war."

AN OLD ADAGE: There is an old adage for establishing crowd head counts with which you are probably familiar: "Double the official count and halve the organizers' count." The chief of police was quoted in one paper as guessing that 150,000 seemed like a good figure. The organizers claimed 300,000. Applying the old adage formula: 2 x the "official" 150,00 = 300,000; 1/2 x the organizer's 300,000 = 150,000; averaging 300,000 with 150,000 = a total of 225,000 people. (Coincidently, the same figure I calculated as you will read further down.)

PERCENTAGE OF US TOTAL POPULATION PARTICIPATING: 225,000 people represents 76/1,000's (.000765%) of our total population: 296,000,000. This percentage is nearly double the 41/1,000's (.00041%) for the October 1967 Vietnam tipping point protest. (75,000 people out of total population: 185,000,000.)

MY OWN MATURE BACKGROUND: I am a recently retired business executive (construction), and retired LCDR USN, and only newly conscious of the looming corporate threat to democracy. I was down for the day from New England for my first Washington protest. Instead of marching I decided to try to get an accurate count of the march participants. It was my first try at crowd estimation but with extensive early experience in construction estimating, I had adequate, common sense approximating skills to apply.

MY COUNTING VANTAGE POINT: I stationed myself at the corner of H and 15th Streets, facing north, where two police lines blocked off turns on to 15th Street.* My vigil started at 1:00 PM. before any marchers had arrived. The first marchers passed my line of sight at 1:15 PM and continued passing my line of sight until 4:45 PM when the last ones passed by. (*I'm sure the officers present could recall the stocky white haired gentleman with the cane standing directly in front of the north facing police line.)

PRELIMINARY FIGURES; Some times (with marchers on the sidewalks) were 24-26 marchers per second crossing my line of sight. At other times there had been only 5-6 marchers per second crossing my line of sight. Working with this disparity, I came up with slightly different preliminary figures as follows; 193,000, 205,000, 216,000, and 255,000. These first approximations averaged 217,000 people. FINAL COUNT: 225,000: Next day based on my personal observations and experience on the 24th I refined the approximations: allowing for only 5-6 marchers for 1/10th of the time; 22 marchers for 4/10ths of the time, and 14 marchers for 5/10ths of the time, produced a count of 210,000 people. To this needs to be added the number of ralliers who did not march: 10-15,000? for a combined total of 220,000-225,000.

In view of the Park Service being directed to discontinue crowd estimates, I hope this sheds some first hand light on the subject for you. and perhaps you'll recall this letter and its significance as the downward spiral in Iraq continues.

Doug Marshall, Sandwich, MA
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