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Sunday, January 19, 2003

Report from the Streets

(8:30 AM) I got back home from the anti-war march in DC less than four hours ago, after having gotten essentially zero sleep since I woke at 6:30 Friday morning (so about 50 hours sleepless). I slept this morning for around three hours until hunger and sunshine dragged me back out of bed. I've got a whole lot to write about the huge Washington protest, but not quite the energy to do it all right now. So I'll start with the article from today's Ann Arbor News which quotes me (they called me on my cell phone during the march) and will continue adding to this post throughout the day as my head clears.

Reporting the news while making it:
Kathleen Peabody and I were two of the approximately 200 Ann Arbor residents who marched in DC yesterday. In this article the Ann Arbor News quotes both of us based on cell-phone interviews they did with us while we were marching.

From niece Beth in California:
The best part was emerging from the relatively quiet BART station into a crowd of tens of thousands of people who are all cheering at the top of their lungs. It is so amazing to look up at the banners, the tall buildings surrounding you and hear people crying out for peace together. I can't describe how wonderful it is to actually feel a sense of community and similar interests with those around you.

From ANSWER: 500,000 Anti-War Protesters Demonstrate in Washington
200,00 March in San Francisco
Hundreds of Thousands More Demonstrate Around the World
To Oppose U.S. War With Iraq

Half a million people marched through the streets of Washington Saturday and 200,000 demonstrated in San Francisco in the largest U.S. demonstrations yet against war with Iraq.

Media downplaying protest
This video clip from NBC says that "more than 10,000 braved Washington's coldest day in..." to protest. I've been to Michigan football games with 110,000 in attendance, and the rally in DC was much larger than that. They even low-balled the ridiculous 30,000 estimate given by DC police. Nowhere in their report do they show a picture of the mall filled with people, nor one of M street by the Navy Yard filled endlessly for miles for over three hours by marchers. I haven't seen a single high-angle photo of the mall during the rally on any major news site which shows how far back the crowd went. NBC's absurd coverage included a segment claiming Americans are not getting involved, and of course a stupid "equal-time" segment for the few hundred counter-protesters who were basically invisible against the hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters. We have to remember that General Electric owns NBC and stands to profit greatly from all of these Bush wars, and that Disney (ABC), AOL-Time-Warner (CNN), Viacom (CBS) and most other major media outlets are giant corporations who benefit from war. I was there: the rally in Washington was huge, certainly equivalent to multiple UM football games, and the major media is intentionally lying about it.

Anyone reading this who has or finds a good picture of the Mall filled with people or along Pennsylvania Avenue or M Street during the march please send me a link! Or if you find articles from reporters who actually did their job and have count estimates based on evidence (counting how many people went by a certain spot, analysis of aerial photos, etc.) I'd love to see those too. I wish I had done some simple experiments during the march yesterday: just counting how many people went by a certain point on M Street in a minute, for example, and multiplying by the 200+ minutes that the march continued. Here's a very rough guess: I was nowhere near the front of the march when I left the Mall area around 1:45, and I arrived at the end of the March at New Jersey and M at about 3:30. I then got some food, ate it, and in the process of looking for my bus I wandered around and returned to New Jersey and M after 5 pm, and marchers were still pouring in as heavily as they had been at 3:30. So that's why I'm guessing over 200 minutes--The front of the march probably arrived well before me around 2:30, and the end probably didn't arrive until after 5:30. As a very rough estimate, I would say that marchers were averaging about 3 miles per hour, were the equivalent of 25 people across spaced at about 5 feet front to back (if we had been arranged marching-band style). So my estimate is:

3 mi/hr * 5280 ft/mi = 15840 ft/hr
15840 ft/hr * 1hr/60 min=264 ft/min
264 ft/min divided by 5 ft front-back spacing = about 52 rows of people per minute
52 rows * 25 people = 1300 people per minute
1300 people per minute * 200 minutes = 260,000 people

I am guessing on the speed and the density of people, which is why I wish I had tried to accurately estimate the people/minute rate. My 1300 may be high, but it is certainly closer than the 150 people per minute that would yield the 30,000 total the police estimated, or the absurd 50 people per minute that NBC's count would indicate. If anyone has video of a portion of the march which would allow a decent estimate of the people/minute rate, please try to examine a few representative minutes of it and send me the number you get. (Can anyone tell that I was trained as an engineer?)

Pictures from Ann Arbor's rally Saturday