Excerpt From: Charlotte Observer. Written By: Thomasi McDonald.
Organizers of the Moral March on Raleigh last weekend said more than 80,000 people marched through the city center, protesting legislation passed by the General Assembly last year.
The number matters. Turnout has become an important yardstick by which political protests and rallies are judged. In this case, it’s even built into the name of one of the rally’s organizers, the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Coalition.
“The emotions of the event and the stands being taken are hard to measure,” said Stephen Doig, a journalism professor at Arizona State University who has done crowd estimates and written about them. “Something that can be measured is the size of the crowd.”
But it is almost impossible to get a number on which everyone can agree. Organizers of events have every incentive to inflate the numbers, and there’s often not anyone else to provide an independent estimate. Raleigh police stopped doing crowd estimates more than a decade ago, said spokesman Jim Sughrue.
Doig and Street both looked at the march route and used Google Earth to measure the length and width of the streets where the event took place. They said density levels of the crowd throughout the procession was a factor, along with the width of the streets and sidewalks and the length of the march route.
Doig estimated a crowd of 14,000 to 15,000 people.
“That’s assuming the entire six blocks were full,” he said.