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So, How Much Sanity Was There in D.C. Yesterday? (Updated)

Big name acts, extensive crowd control, rules against video or audio taping even with your cell phone, boring political speeches ... this wasn't a rally, this was a U2 concert! But how many people attended?

by
Charlie Martin

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October 31, 2010 - 12:07 am
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What if they held a political rally and a rock concert broke out?

The “Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear” in Washington, D.C., on Saturday looked like it was probably generally a lot of fun.  The crowd looked cheerful, and I generally like Jon Stewart and sometimes like Stephen Colbert.  The music was okay — I’m a big fan of Cat Stevens, and the guy with the beard (Yusuf something?) who sang “Peace Train” did a pretty credible cover version.

But Roger didn’t ask for a review; he wanted the now-traditional PJ Media crowd size estimate.

As always, this would be much easier if I could get a photo of the crowd from directly overhead, and as usual, I can’t find one.  Apparently, for some reason, they no longer let aircraft fly over the Capitol and White House, so we have to settle for the usual photos from locations from the Washington Monument or the like.

The AP provides us several in a slideshow.  Here’s a good one:

Of course, right away we notice something: large parts of the National Mall are blocked off to the crowds.  If we’re going to make an estimate, we need to know how much.  AP provides us with another shot with a little bit wider angle:

…and one more from behind the stage and toward the Washington Monument, so we can see that the crowd really does stop somewhere in the middle of the Mall.  In these pictures, north is to the left, so we have the crowd coming a little west of the main entrance to the National Gallery of Art on the north:

On the other side of the Mall, the crowd seems to be roughly up to the end of the National Air and Space Museum:

… while on the east end, it appears the stage is set up somewhere a little west of 4th St NW.

So I constructed a generous rectangle as the perimeter of the crowd that includes a good bit of the buildings on the sides, but then doesn’t attempt to add in the lines of people along the dirt lanes across the Mall.

Here’s the polygon I constructed:

And once again using this excellent tool, I computed the are of the whole polygon as about 150,000 square meters.  Before I screw myself up with unit changes, we’ll convert that and call it 1,620,000 square feet.

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