War protests, by the numbers

An antiwar rally in Washington draws at least 100,000. A pro-war event draws 400.

Published September 26, 2005 1:28PM (EDT)

Crowd counting isn't an exact science. And even at its best, it's not much of a proxy for a well-conducted public opinion poll. But still, isn't it at least a little interesting to compare the numbers generated by the big antiwar protest in Washington Saturday with the two pro-war rallies that came before and after it?

As Jeff Horwitz writes in Salon, the organizers of Saturday's protest "claimed as many as 250,000 demonstrators attended; though D.C. police estimates were more conservative, none pegged the crowd at below 100,000." USA Today said the protest drew "at least 100,000." The Associated Press called it "an estimated 100,000 people." And the Washington Post quoted D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey, who, when asked whether the protest drew at least 150,000 people, said, "That's as good a guess as any."

How does that stack up against the America Supports You Freedom Walk and country music concert the Pentagon sponsored on the fourth anniversary of 9/11 earlier this month? There's no comparison, really. While one Pentagon official claimed that the pro-war event drew 17,000, newspaper accounts put the real number at somewhere between "several thousand" and "about 10,000" -- and a good number of those were apparently government employees who had been urged by their supervisors to attend.

And what about this Sunday's pro-war demonstration? Organizers of that event said they hoped to draw 10,000 people to Washington. How'd they do? The Associated Press says Sunday's event drew "hundreds," which was "far fewer than organizers had expected." The conservative Washington Times puts a finer point on it, saying an "estimated 400 people" participated in the pro-war rally that was meant to "counter Saturday's anti-war protests, which attracted as many as 100,000 people. according to police estimates."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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