Monday, January 30, 2017

How Big Was Women’s March On Washington (Just in DC Alone)? Here Are A Few Clues (Including That It Was Much, Much Bigger Than The Trump Inaugural And Magnitudes Greater Than The Biggest Tea Party March)

(Click to enlarge- if you dare.) Was D.C. Women's March crowd "over million" marchers by a healthy margin? Probably!  Images of D.C. Metro, eventually too crowed to us from NY1reporting.  See below for aerial comparison views.  Two crowd pictures upper right from avenues north of National Mall.
How big was the Women’s March on Washington?  There were crowds marching everywhere, all over the world and all over the U.S.A.  But how big was the Women’s March on Washington, just the people who were in D.C.?
Click through to see sweeping video of a portion f the Women's March crowds flowing through Washington DC
We know it was really big, bigger by far than the gathering for Donald Trump’s inaugural, but let’s obsess a bit about exactly how much bigger and how big, because it’s fun: The more we obsess, the more fumed DT gets. You know how Trump wants to insist that he had a really big inaugural crowd (asking the Parks Department to scour for pictures as proof) . . . It’s with something of the same urgency that he wanted to tell us he had “big hands.” . .

. . . O.K. Donald: tell us how “big” your hands are: We enjoy all your “alternative facts.”

How big was the Woman’s March crowd?  It’s true that very large crowds like this are hard to count.  A company called Digital Design & Imaging Service, is trying to make an estimate of attendance at the Women’s March and says it will put its data up for others to assess when it is done.
Washington DC.  Washington Monument in distant background.
Meanwhile, some clues:
(click to enlarge) Hard to get a perfect three-way overlay (its best to use the available interactive sliders to do two comparisons at a time), but here are three event overlaid: The Woman's March on right, On left the Trump inaugural with an upper middle square patch showing the much more populous Obama inaugural.
The First Obama Inauguration in 2009 Estimated To Have 1.8 Million People.- Trump Had a Fraction of That and Women’s March Had Multiple of Trump Crowd.  The figure that has long been widely given and accepted for the number of people who attended Obama’s first inaugural address is 1.8 million. Perhaps 460,000 of them were back on the National Mall rather than closer up (it is believed to have been the largest ever crowd in D.C.).  The New York Time recently reiterated this as it made comparisons (via pictures and graphing on a map) of that crowd to the relatively scant groupings of people at the 2017 Trump inaugural.  See: Trump's Inauguration vs. Obama's: Comparing the Crowds, by Tim Wallace, Karen Yourish and Troy Griggs, January 20, 2017.

(One estimate of the size of Obama’s 2013 crowd is about 1 million.)

Professor Keith Still, of Manchester Metropolitan University in England, a crowd safety consultant providing his assessment to the Times, estimated the Trump inaugural at “about one-third the size of Mr. Obama's,” although looking at the side-by-side pictures of the number of people on the mall those days the estimate seems generous to Mr. Trump.
New York Times article: Crowd Scientists Say Women's March in Washington Had 3 Times as Many People as Trump's Inauguration,
In another article (two days later), with more sets of side-by-side pictures and graphs on maps, the New York Times published that the “women's march in Washington was roughly three times the size of the audience at President Trump's inauguration, crowd counting experts said Saturday.”  (The experts: Professor Still again, this time with his colleague, Marcel Altenburg also at Manchester Metropolitan University.)  See: Crowd Scientists Say Women's March in Washington Had 3 Times as Many People as Trump's Inauguration, by Tim Wallace and Alicia Parlapiano, January. 22, 2017.

Does this mean, ergo, that the crowd at the Women’s March was somewhere around the size of the 1.8 million crowd for Obama’s first inauguration?  It would seem like it should put it somewhere near that number and it would be nice if it were that simple and easy to know for sure. People will probably settle on some kind of lesser number when all the analytical dust settles.  A much more seat-of-the-pants estimate from ThinkProgress estimates the Women’s March crowd at just double that of the Trump inaugural.
Interactive CNN overlay with slider for comparison
CNN has a fascinating interactive visual where you can use a slider of fairly exactly overlaid photographs to go back and forth to make enormous crowds either appear or vanish by going back and forth between the Obama 2009 inauguration and Mr. Trump’s.  CNN also gives that Obama attendance figure at 1.8 million.
Interactive USA overlay with slider for comparison: Trump inaugural left vs. Woman's March right
And, oh joy, USA Today has such an interactive feature where you can similarly use a slider to go back and forth to compare the crowds between Trump’s Friday inaugural on the 20th and the Woman’s March the next day on Saturday.  PRI has more interactive sliders that do the same thing.  Trump railing about the subject of crowd size when speaking to the CIA the day of the march (with his traveling clap-track- or “claque” in attendance) said that he’s seen an unspecified “network” report his inaugural “drew 250,000 people.”

Washing D.C. Metro System Ridership For Woman’s March Was Second Highest Ever.  The Washington Post reported that, the day of the Women’s March, the Washington D.C. Metro rail system had the second highest ridership day of in the system’s history, 1,001,616 trips.  The highest in history was Obama’s 2009 inauguration, 1,120,000 trips.  Obviously, even though this Saturday figure for the Women’s march is 89% of the figure for the Obama inauguration day it doesn’t mean that the Woman’s March crowd was 89% of the 1.8 million from 2009.  That’s because there are other users of the system, a base number of riders to start with.  And with to and fro, each ride does not represent a single person each.

As a barometer, on Saturday, September 12, 2009, the day of the Taxpayers March by the Koch brothers funded Tea Party, the total DC Metro rail ride figures for the system came out to a total of 437,000, which was, according to Los Angeles Times reporting, 87,000 over the average daily ridership of 350,000. That accompanied an  “expert” research professor crowd estimation of about 60,000 to 70,000 for that crowd at the beginning of the event.*  The Washington Post reports that 570,000 trips were taken on the rail system the day of Donald Trump's inauguration.
(* Looking at pictures to gauge the size of this largest ever Tea Party rally can be deceiving because some of the people looking to brag about the size of the crowd put up a picture of someone else’s event apparently from the 1990's when the buildings on the National Mall weren’t even the same- “alternative fact” visuals?  Also in the `false crowd image’ category is that Trump’s campaign apparently hired a crowd of actors, $50 per, to cheer him when he made his June 16, 2015 announcement that he was running for president, arriving in the lobby of Trump Tower descending an escalator. .  And then it didn’t pay the $12,000 bill for the actors until October.)
If the daily D.C. Metro ridership is roughly near the 350,000 it used to be then, by subtraction, the other differences in ridership would work out to: 220,000 extra rides the day of the Trump inauguration, 651,616 extra rides the day of the Women’s March, and 770,000 extra rides the day of the 2009 Obama inauguration. . . If proportionate ridership was a perfect measure, then Trump’s crowd would be about 28.57% the size of Obama’s 1.8 million (514,260) and the Women’s March would be about 84.6% the size of Obama’s 1.8 million (1,522,800).

Click through to watch fast motion video of a zillion Woamen's Marchers in Lincoln Park Washington DC (a mile and a half away) walking two miles to the march because the DC metro was too jammed to handle so many people and walking was faster.
But ridership is not a perfect measure.  I went to the Women’s March and our bus, due to problems, was late starting out and getting there (so much for getting up in NYC at 3:30 AM).  When it arrived with other buses behind us, the forty or so people from my bus were advised not to use the Metro because it was too overcrowded.  We all took the advice that it would be quicker (about an hour) to walk the two miles from RFK Stadium and like so many others, we did.  Returning at the end of the day, we walked again, an hour and half with another stream of marchers, because the line to get into the entrance of the DC Metro was two blocks long.

Marchers waiting "in line?" at Shady Grove station to get into Washington DC Metro station to go to the March.
Other friends of ours who also came by bus didn’t use the D.C. Metro because they successfully arranged to have their bus drop them off and pick them up close to the site of the march.

Those who traveled to D.C. by train, and there were many of them, got into Union Station, a close walk to the march and probably never used the Metro either.  Some people stayed with friends or at a hotel nearby enough to walk.

One thing that probably helped the 2009 Obama inaugural crowd attain the size that it did is that Washington D.C. is a largely black town in terms of its inner citizenry: There were certainly a lot of people nearby to the mall who had an interest in attending the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, and, if we may venture an understatement, probably had much less of an inclination to attend Trump’s . .

. . As we walked our hour-and-a-half return to the stadium we saw people arriving at a church with an apparently mostly black congregation who were apparently returned from the Women’s March. Going to and from the march, as we walked through a neighborhood that seemed to have a significant black population we were, time and again, warmly greeted by residents.  Along much of way, obviously the result of some organizing effort, there were a multitude of signs in the front yards with marvelous quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Quotes like:
•    “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
•    “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
•    “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
•    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
•    “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
It did not immediately occur to me that these signs might have been, not only for our viewing, but also for attendees of the Trump inaugural the previous day, although those attendees would have been less likely to have been walking two miles due to a overcrowded Metro system.  By the way: The day of the Trump inauguration there were also many people there to protest, not applaud.
I grabbed my camera: Here's a small fraction of the parked buses we were rolling by.
Requested Bus Permits For Trump Inauguration Were Less Than On-Quarter Those For the Women’s March.  In the days leading up to the Trump inauguration and Woman’s March it was clear that the escalating number of city bus parking permits for the respective events meant that the bus-delivered attendance component of the attendance at the march was far outpacing that of the inaugural.  By January 18th, two days before the inaugural, the Chicago Tribune was reporting that 1,800 buses had registered to park in the city on the day of the march while “in contrast” approximately 400 buses (22.22% as many) had registered to park in the city the day of the inauguration.

How many finally arrived in the end?  Reportedly, charter bus parking spaces that can be available at RFK Stadium number 1200.  That’s just one of the locations buses could park in the city.   As of the 15th The Hill reported they had all been booked for the day of the Women’s March.  It’s anecdotal, but when our bus arrived to park at the stadium it was one, like other buses before and after it, that the parking lot managers were directing to park on the grass rather than the asphalt, indicating the lot was over capacity.

Other Indicators? 

It is important to remember that the crowd of the Women’s March was everywhere in the city.  It was not only on the Mall, but all the side streets and avenues.  I realized this when I reached an intersection and in all four directions, as far as I could see, I saw crowds bigger than I had ever seen before.  The Woman’s March in Washington was just one location in the U.S. that day where the crowd arriving was so unexpectedly large that the idea of routing it on a formally directed march route had to be abandoned.. .   So when one compares visuals of Obama’s 2009 inaugural with the Women’s March one needs to think about how far the crowds were roaming for the March.
Obama 2009 inauguration crowd
Enlargement of area of photo above that shows the absence of a crowd far back near the Washington Monument
Picture from a New York Times article of pictures from around the world with Washington Monument much closer in the background shows how crowds in Washington D.C. roamed all the back at the Monument. 
Although pictures of the 2009 Obama inaugural looking over the Mall toward the Capital where the inauguration was held show thick crowds coming back all the way into the foreground (i.e. towards the Washington Monument), pictures of that inaugural looking back the other way, where you can see even further toward the Washington Monument, show that there was space vacant of crowds way back close to the Washington Monument, far form the inaugural itself.  The New York Times, starting off its article of collected pictures from around the world, showed this same space crammed with Women’s March marchers.

“Summing” Up

It will be a while before people settle on their conclusions about how many people were at the D.C. Women’s March.  When we arrived at the RFK Stadium parking lot with still another hour’s walk to go before we joined the crowd, city employees ushering us on our way were relaying to us that the reports they’d received before 11:00 AM said the crowd we were headed to join had already topped 500,000. . . . The Million Man March of October 12, 1995, originally estimated by the Parks Service at just 400,000 marchers was ultimately more formally estimated by experts at around 837,000 (The service doesn’t do estimates anymore).

When we got back to New York City (where there had been one of the many sister Woman’s March that same day clogging the streets for hours- 400,000 according to a New York Times article lamenting the insufficiency of NYC public gathering space, vital cornerstones essential to democratic ideals that they are), our local NY1 news station reported that the D.C. Woman’s March had a crowd of over one million.  Could that be the number?  While we will probably never know for sure, whatever the number, when zeroed in, may ultimately have been, it seems safe to say that there is a good possibility that. in D.C. alone. the number exceeded one million by a very healthy amount. . .

. . .  That said, obsessing further almost doesn’t matter because the D.C. march was just one of the marches that was held that Saturday.  There were sister marches of remarkable proportions with millions more jamming the streets and plazas and public spaces of cities, towns and, localities all around the U.S., and all around the world.  (National Notice published images of crowds at more than 80 U.S. localities, while naming and linking to such images from other cities around the world.)

To know the numbers of all those other marches will take a whole lot more of this kind of obsessive calculation. . . Has there ever been a larger demonstration all around this country or the world?- Probably not.

. . . To be continued?
From National Notice collection of Women's March crowd images at 80+ localities in U.S.A.: six of the demonstration cities, clockwise from upper left: Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, New York City, Austin
From National Notice collection of Women's March crowd images at 80+ localities in U.S.A.: six more of the demonstration cities, clockwise from upper left:Montpelier, San Jose, Asheville ,St. Paul, Indianapolis, San Diago

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