Crowd estimates of the event varied widely. ABC News reported that the crowd numbered 60,000 to 70,000. The Associated Press reported it was in the "tens of thousands," a figure echoed Monday morning on MSNBC. Both of these estimates are ridiculously low, according to rally organizers.
The highest attendance estimate came from the London Daily Mail. It reported "as many as" 1 million people attended. The Daily Mail reported that the crowd "shocked the White House." But if so, that was not reflected by the administration's official statements.
In fact, the administration's remarks before the event appeared to echo statements made prior to the July 4 Tea Party protests, suggesting the event wasn't even a blip on President Obama's radar.
"I don't know who the group is," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday, when asked for his reaction to the demonstration.
Bill Line, communications officer for the national capital region for the U.S. national park service, told Newsmax that no official estimate of the crowd's size had been issued.
"For any event national mall or in any of the various related parks adjacent to it, we do not give crowd estimates," Line said.
More than 20 different conservative grassroots organizations – including the 912 Project, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, and Grassfire.org – participated in the rally.
Demonstrators chanted "Enough! Enough!" Others waved signs with messages such as "Go Green, Recycle Congress," and "I'm Not Your ATM" and "Just Say No to Chicago-Style Politics."
Everett Wilkinson, a national leader for the Tea Party Patriots group, says the crowd size caught the park police by surprise – so much so they ordered the event to begin several hours earlier than planned to maintain crowd control.
"I showed up a little before 8:30 a.m. at Freedom Plaza, where we were staging for the event," Wilkinson tells Newsmax. "I was there about a half hour early and it was hard to get to the stage at that time. Around 9:20 or so, I was on stage and the park police came up and said, 'If it keeps growing at this rate we're going to have to ask you guys to start early.'
"About 20 minutes or so later they came up, a little before 10, and said, 'You need to start the march NOW!' It was about an hour and half or so before we had expected to begin. We had overwhelmed the area. From what I understand, we had a couple hundred thousand minimum at that time."
From Freedom Plaza the crowd marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for hours toward the Capitol.
Videos on YouTube show an overflow crowd on the Mall stretching from the Capitol back toward the Washington Monument.
A USAToday report during the Inauguration demonstrated that such an area could easily contain over one million persons, but accurately estimating the size of any crowd can be problematic. That's because the number of attendees depends on crowd density. Estimates of density often require expert analysis of aerial photographs.
Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests the actual attendance may have been far larger than reported by several media outlets.
"Looking out from the stage," Wilkinson says, "people appeared to be lined up all the way to the Washington Monument. I could tell the crowd kept growing until at least two or three o'clock…. It was shoulder-to-shoulder people, and there was nowhere to move…"
Wilkinson wouldn't rule out the possibility that up to 2 million attended the rally. As for media reports that the number was far less, Wilkinson says: "I think it's intentional misrepresentation. The most novice and naked eye could see the video in the shots taken that there were hundreds of thousands, millions of people there.
"When you have the park police and the D.C. police literally telling us to march two hours before hand, from an area that holds a couple hundred thousand people, saying, 'There's no room, you need to march NOW' … we had tens of thousands probably by 9:30. It was millions by 1 o'clock.
"We literally shut down the highways, the red line rail station had to change things around," he adds. "Looking at the videos posted on YouTube, you can tell it was millions. We completed surrounded the Capitol."
The mainstream media also overlooked the many regional rallies held throughout the country on Saturday to show support for the D.C. event."
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