Photos put peace marchers at 65,000

A survey using sophisticated aerial photography of Sunday's anti-war march and rally in San Francisco has produced results that indicate a far smaller crowd than the 200,000 protesters estimated by police and event organizers. [...]

In a series of detailed, high-resolution photographs, the aerial survey shows that around 65,000 people were in the area of Market Street and Civic Center Plaza at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, which organizers said was when crowd size was at its peak. That number does not take into account marchers who dropped out before or arrived after the moment the photo sequence was shot. Calculating a precise number of protesters for the entire rally is not possible from this survey, but the result is much more accurate than the visual scan method most commonly used by police and organizers.

( pictures )

Tags: , , ,
Current Music: the musical horror show at DNA Lounge

15 Responses:

  1. dmaster says:

    embarassing how Spain can get a million people together, but the US, where by all means we should speak the loudest... can't get more than 65k people to stick around in one spot for a while. This is why we're stuck with Bush, isn't it? The apathy runs deep with this country.

    • grahams says:

      A) Who's to say that Spain doesn't have the same accounting errors the SF officials who stated 200,000 had?

      B) SF is just one city

    • volkris says:

      Polls indicate that the American public is to a large extent in support of the war. For many people it's not apathy so much as disagreement.

      Your reply just sounded like you were amazed that everyone in the US agreed to be against the war but didn't go out to protest.

      And no, we're "stuck" with Bush because people chose him to lead.

      • ciphergoth says:

        That's not an uncontested view of why Bush is now President, given all the, uh, excitement around the 2000 elections.

        It seems you're right about that support though. Unlike here in Britain, where about 10% of the population are backing Bush's current stance.

  2. bdu says:

    perhaps that was the number at the rally, there wasn't nearly enough room over there. I would contest the idea that the crowd hit it's peak then.

    I saw many people, like myself, who either dropped out before getting there or got there, couldn't stand the crowd density/long bathroom lines, and left.

    • jwz says:

      Well, the article says they didn't count only the plaza, but the surrounding streets too. Though of course it was only a count of one particular time of day. The article goes into a fair amount of detail, and it sounds to me like their counting technique was pretty well thought out.

      • bdu says:

        1:45 was about the time that everybody was hitting the rally or leaving.

        Yes, their technique is sound, but I'm not sure that time was the crowd's peak, that's all.

        • atakra says:

          I would also contest that figure. I arrived at about 1:00 (it takes me about 20-30 minutes to meander to Civic Center from home) and I was shocked at how FEW people were there at that time. BUT at about 3:00 it was hard for me to walk around the Civic Center (I did 10 laps, snapping photos). I spent about 20 minutes between those two times walking amongst the marchers (which wasn't nearly as crowded or as interesting as last months march). Also, the march ENDED much earlier than the previous one when the cops estimated "tens of thousands".

          IMHO there was 110,000-120,000 protesters this time (much less than the organizers and police estimates at the time). On the previous march it was definately 200,000+ attendees because it was pretty much PACKED from 1:00 to 4:00.

          And why are most peace protesters so goddamn ugly?

          Oh, the pro-war contingent was easily half of what it was last month, hands down. BUT the pro-war rabid people attacking the pro-war people's right to free speech was about 4 decibels louder. One dreadlocked black d00d was easily the most annoying anti-war protester, yelling "free Mummia", and a host of other unrelated slogans for about an hour straight (yes, I followed him around because it was so funny).

  3. ciphergoth says:

    You mean photographing the whole area at this resolution, gridding it, and sampling grid cells isn't the *standard* way of estimating crowds? What the fuck were they doing before then?

    I had hoped at least for a camera vertically mounted above a point in the crowd for counting marchers, but I guess even that's too sophisticated. No wonder crowd estimates varied so much.

    Of course, the annoying thing about this is that we now have basically no idea of the size of our demonstrations relative to the sizes of those that preceded it. Next time there's a large demonstration, the papers won't be able to say "biggest ever", only "biggest since we learned how to count a crowd".

    Raph Levien referenced some interesting links about this.

    • jwz says:

      What the fuck were they doing before then?

      As far as I can tell, "looking around and making a guess."

      I always try to guess how many people have been in the club on a given night, and then find out the real numbers at the end of the night or the next day. It's not easy!

  4. mactavish says:

    Friends of mine who were in The City that day for something else said that it looked much smaller than 250,000 to them, too. One said, "I've seen Pride bigger than this quite a few times."

  5. insomnia says:

    Their method of counting might be more scientific, but it isn't necessarily more accurate -- that depends on the methodology, and their methodology has some obvious flaws.

    Lots of people were walking down sidestreets to grab lunch, take a break, camped out to the side watching the protest, etc. The survey people said "no side street was full enough to count", which means that everyone not on the main parade route wasn't counted. There were plenty of people on the side streets, however. Also, their density estimates appear to be way off. If it were 25% or 50%, then you could have walked at a normal pace the whole way, rather than having to watch out for stepping on the person in front of you. Even the pictures themselves don't indicate 25% density.

    Also, the transit figures that they quoted don't really support the idea that so few people attended. By their estimate, around 65% of the people for the protest would have had to arrive via BART, but they had no figures for Muni, nor did they explain how impossible parking was that day. Every lot anywhere near the downtown was packed.

    Although eyeballing a crowd is naturally a flawed method, that doesn't mean it's inaccurate. It can actually be quite an accurate method of estimating anything, so long as you have a large enough sample group to base a concensus on. Static photos with estimated crowd density only along certain parts of a parade route can't tell the whole story, either.

    Perhaps the best solution would be taking the usage figures for BART, figuring out the number of people using the service above statistical averages, then use a survey of the attendees of a downtown protest to determine what method they used to get to the protest. That would allow you to estimate how many people took BART, MUNI, drove, biked, or walked, and would give you something closer to an accurate tally for such events, I'd suspect.

    • ciphergoth says:

      Not sure I buy this. I think I spend at least 95% of my time on a demo within the photographable area, and certainly by the peak of the rally I'm very unlikely to be down a side street; I'll either be in the rally or in the crowd walking. I don't think that can bias the figures all that much.

  6. I thought it was standard practice now to call your event a "Million X March", where X is some identifier for the attendees. Or maybe that went out with the 1990's?

  7. msjen says:

    I think it's great how *overestimating* the size of the march makes headlines when protest sizes are routinely underreported and no one blinks an eye.

    At least they are trying to be accurate, at any rate. I think SF was the only city, this time or last time, where police and organizer counts were at least in the same ballpark.

    And that's my unscientific fifteen second viewpoint on the matter.