Saturday, September 12, 2009
912 MARCH ON WASHINGTON EXCEEDS EXPECTATION
JC Leahy, 9/12/09, Washington, DC
I made my way downtown early this morning with low expectations. I thought the "March on Washington" would be small. What I encountered was the experience of a lifetime!!!!
I got up early and put on my best lab coat. The sky threatened rain. I phoned the Army and Navy Club to find out whether I could drive or needed to take the Metro subway. The roads were reported clear. That reinforced my expectation of a small turnout of demonstrators. I down 16th Street to the Club two blocks from the White House, left my car with the valet, and strolled off in the direction of Freedom Plaza. As I passed the White House, I encountered the first of the demonstrators. They were in small groups, ranging from 3 or 4 to 20. Some were posing for photos in front of the White House. I mistook them for the main gathering, and thought that this would be a small demonstration, indeed. My hands were full with my camera, a shoulder bag, and 500 flyers about health care and JITODAY.COM. I began passing out flyers and talking to folks. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was polite. Most of them were actually engaging. Woah! Friendly? Polite? Engaging? I began to wonder where they were from.
I continued on towards the "advertised" gathering point at Freedom Plaza, a couple of blocks east. The crowd at Freedon Plaza was huge. I commenced to chat with various people and pass out flyers I asked them where they came from. They came from Florida,Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, San Fransisco, Georgia, Arizona, the Carolinas, Ohio. Panama City Panama., and many other places. There were mothers with babies in strollers (even some double strollers!!), parents and children strolling along together, friends chatting as they walked, and a wheelchair-bound folks of different ages, all moving along together. My 500 flyers were gone as fast as I could separate the pages and hand them out. I talked with an easy 600 people. There was no one there from Washington, DC.
CROWD SIZE ESTIMATE
(Photo at right: The crowd encircled the massive reflecting pool and stretched all the way to the steps of the Capitol and around to the sides!!! )
As I walked along Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol, the throng of people was so thick that I had difficulty positioning myself to take pictures. I began to marvel at how many people there were! One woman with a video on a tripod at the roadside said at 11:20AM that she had been video taping the crowd for an hour and 23 mintues straight and still couldn't see the end of the line. Wow! That's going to make a really interesting home video! But -- I had the impression I was near the front of the parade. I had no idea that there were at least and hour and 23 minutes of crowd in front of me. That meant this was a really big crowd. I walked along and found another guy with a video on a tripod. He had been taping the parade for an hour and a half. He told me that at least 3,000 people per minute were passing. Wow! Another great home video! Three thousand a minute?? I thought that must be wrong, so I stopped and watched. I imagined a straight line drawn across the street. I estimated that at any point in time, there must be at least 70 people stepping over the line -- maybe more. It didn't take them more than a second to pass over the line. 70 people times 60 seconds was...4,200 people a minute. Wow! If he had been video taping for 1.5 hours and there were 4,200 people a minute passing....there were at least 378,000 people in front of me!! And at 4,200 people per minute, that's 252,000 people per hour marching down Pennsylvania Avenue for hours. Woah! This was getting interesting! Later I would learn that the Daily Mail newspaper had each estimated a total crowd of 2 million!!! (But I'm the accountant, right? My estimate is that around 951,000 people arrived by Pennsylvania Avenue and some arrived by other routes. I say, a million to 1.1 million people attended. That's the official Journal of American Ideas Today estimate.)
As I said, the crowd was strikingly well behaved. I talked with hundreds and hundreds of people, and encountered 30-40 health care professionals, mostly doctors and nurses but there were a significant number of occupational therapists and EMT's. I joked with them that we ALL should have worn our lab coats to show that many health professionals are opposed to President Obama's scheme. They all laughed and agreed. I didn't see any other lab coats in the crowd but mine. As a result, a number of people wanted to take my picture or have their picture taken with me, What fun!
When I reached the Capitol's reflecting pool, I was dumbstruck by the vastness of the crowd. How spectacular!! The crowd encircled the entire pool and extended all the way to the steps of the Capitol and around its sides. It was awesome! I worked my way around the pool, trying to capture the vastness of the crowd on film. I'm not sure that I succeeded.
Eventually, I decided to leave early before the rest of the crowd and before any rain might fall. It was 1pm. I was shocked to discover that the throng of marchers was still arriving down Pennsylvania Avenue!! I took another street back to the Club, past Freedom Plaza where it had all started. The crowd was gone from Freedom Plaza -- gone to the Capitol. I made a mental note that someone must have cleaned the Plaza already because except for some overflowing trash cans, it was remarkably litter-free.
What an amazing and uplifting time!
PS - In case you have an interest, I took the above photos with a Canon Elan IIE camera with a 28-135mm zoom f3.5-5.6 lens and Kodak print film.