October 2010

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25 Oct 2010 — Small Projects

30 Oct 2010 — Sanity Rally

The official rally area was on the mall between 3rd and 7th streets. The picture of the crowd above was taken from in front of the Smithsonian at about 10th street. At the far right, you can see a portable surveillance stand used by the park police that was set up at about 7th street. The area in and around the official rally area was packed with people and you can't even really see it in this picture. We were unable to get up to 7th street on the edge of the mall.

We waited in line for about an hour at the Shady Grove metro station just to buy a ticket (as miscalculation; we should have stopped by the station the night before). Our train was nearly full when it departed the station. By two or three stops down the line, we couldn't really pick up many more passengers, but the platforms at every stop along the line were full of people waiting. When we arrived downtown and walked toward the mall at about 12:30 (half an hour or so after the rally started) many people were already leaving, presumably because of the size of the crowd. Once we arrived on the mall, we could understand why. Since they had only planned for 3rd to 7th street, there were no speakers or video monitors beyond 7th street and it was impossible to see or hear anything that was going on on stage except for bits of song performances and an occasional exclamation.

When the rally ended at 3:00pm, we were on 7th street and started walking north with the crowd. The entire street was full of people as far as I could see, and we were jammed in with the crowd. It was nearly impossible to get cell phone reception during the entire rally and for several hours afterward, but we did manage to meet up with some friends for a while before trying to board a train back out to Shady Grove. Even when we left at around 6:00pm, the station was still full of people and we let one full train go by. The second train had room, but by the time we departed it was packed.

So, just how many people were there? An AP story I saw on 10/31 said "tens of thousands", which although correct in a sense (I mean, yes, many tens of thousands) to me seems to imply less than 100,000, when I'm pretty sure significantly understimates the actual total. But just how should the number be estimated? A simple measurement with google maps shows the distance between 3rd and 7th streets is about 3/10 of a mile, and the mall is about 1/10 of a mile across. So calculating that area in square feet, we find (3/10)*(1/10)*5280*5280 or a little over 830,000 square feet. If each person there had 4 square feet to stand (I'm not sure, they were pretty well packed in from what I could tell) then that is more than 200,000 people in that space alone, and as you can see, there were many more people than could fit between 3rd and 7th. The crowd spilled out along the sides of the mall near the stage, and people were constantly moving into and out of the area. I would say easily 350,000, or perhaps as many as 500,000 people attended at some point during the day. The museums also appeared to be packed, I'm guessing with people who gave up on the rally and decided to make the best of their day on the mall.

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