Crowd estimates from Women’s Marches on Saturday are still trickling in, but political scientists say they think we may have just witnessed the largest day of demonstrations in American history.
According to data collected by Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut, marches held in more than 500 US cities were attended by at least 3.3 million people.
The turnout at events outside the US was significant, too. Chenoweth and Pressman have recorded over 100 international Women’s Marches with an estimated attendance of more than 260,000.
Chenoweth cautioned me that while 3.7 million Americans protesting on Saturday may be the largest turnout in US history in absolute terms, she wasn’t sure if it was the largest protest proportionally speaking. For instance, she said, it’s possible that protests in cities around the US against the Iraq War in 2003 may have drawn as many people or more relative to the population at that time.
As she and Pressman continue to collect data, she hopes that civic organizers will be more involved with gathering crowd data in real time to help researchers who study social movements.
“For people who organize these kinds of activity, there is something that can be learned in terms of techniques of using [satellite images or aerial photos] to estimate crowd density,” said Chenoweth. “It might be a good time to think about how we democratize that knowledge.”
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