N&O reporter Will Doran took a stab at estimating crowd size, rightfully pointing out that Fayetteville Street isn’t long enough to hold the 80,000 demonstrators some claimed were at Saturday’s HKonJ rally.
Blending the Howard Jacobs-method of estimating crowd size that Doran used with the National Park Service’s official SWAG method (“scientific wild-ass guess”), I’ve done my own calculations, based on the drone shot I took and shared in the previous blog post and measuring streets and spaces using Google Maps.
Here’s what I came up with:
South Street area between Salisbury and Wilmington, curb to curb: 600 x 33 ft = 19,800 sq. ft.
Wilmington between South and Davie: 1224 x 34 ft. = 41,616 sq. ft.
Davie between Wilmington and Fayetteville: 300 x 38 ft. = 11,400 sq. ft.
Fayetteville St. between Davie and Morgan: 1429 x 99 ft. = 141,471 sq. ft.
Now, based on my drone photo there is a huge crowd still in front of Memorial Auditorium at 10:35 AM. The area they’re in totals 71,500 sq. ft, give or take. It looks packed.
Going by the 5 sq. ft. per person Jacobs model and assuming all of these areas are that full, I get a high-end guesstimate of 57,157 people. The low-end estimate assuming the 10 sq. ft model (and that Memorial is 5-level full) is 35,729 people. A middle estimate that assumes Fayetteville was closer to slightly half-full gives me 44,168 people.
So, did the rally attract 80,000? Not even close. Still, the numbers it did attract are still quite impressive by any measure.
Supporters of Saturday’s protest march in downtown Raleigh, the 11th annual HKonJ, said more than 80,000 people attended.Organizers including the N.C. NAACP announced the massive crowd size, then it began circulating on social media and was picked up and repeated by several national news outlets covering the event.
The march was held to oppose President Donald Trump and to voice support for a laundry list of causes, ranging from supporting Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act to opposing gerrymandering. HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street.
But many questioned whether the crowd was really as big as organizers and attendees claimed, and some asked PolitiFact North Carolina to look into it.
Crowd size estimates are a handy way of gauging people’s interest – or lack thereof – in the big topics of the day.So understandably, estimates often inspire emotional reactions from both sides – especially in highly politicized contexts like this weekend’s HKonJ.