Wednesday was a big day in Washington, D.C. Huge crowds swarmed the area beneath the Lincoln Memorial and along the Reflecting Pool as three American presidents — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter (George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush could not attend due to health reasons) — a host of congressional representatives and dignitaries gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
There are no official crowd size numbers given for events held on the National Mall. The U.S. Park Police stopped giving crowd estimates following a very public disagreement on crowd size after 1995′s “Million Man March.”
Multiple news outlets reported that a crowd in excess of 100,000 people was expected on the National Mall Wednesday. How many people actually attended? Did Obama, Clinton, Carter and others manage to bring as large a crowd as Glenn Beck did for Restoring Honor exactly three years earlier on Aug. 28, 2010? It depends on who you’re talking to.
NBC News initially described the crowd in a rather nebulous manner, reporting that “throngs of people” were there. The post was amended to say “tens of thousands.”
The New York Times coverage only mentioned crowd size once, using the phrase “tens of thousands of Americans.”
ABC News’ Mike Levine quoted “unofficial” law enforcement estimates saying “over 20,000″ people were on the National Mall just after 2 p.m.
CBS News actually posted a photo from above the crowd, estimating “tens of thousands” of people.
To come up with a body count, CBS News used an “exclusive” image from AirPhotosLive shot from high above Wednesday’s rally and more than a mile away.
Ryan Shuler, a representative from AirPhotosLive, told TheBlaze that due to restricted airspace over the National Mall, “We were not close enough – not at an optimum angle to provide an accurate estimate.” CBS News has not provided details on how they arrived at their “tens of thousands” estimate.
Back in 2010 during “Restoring Honor,” AirPhotosLive provided CBS with the crowd estimate of 87,000. Shuler said his company was able to use helium balloons with high resolution cameras at very close range in order to get detailed images of the entire crowd. The 87,000 estimate from CBS raised so many questions that CBS News was forced to give a detailed explanation of how they arrived at the number. The photos below showing the Beck rally crowd in 2010 offer a stark contrast to the image above and suggest the 2010 crowd was significantly greater than Wednesday’s.
There was a government helicopter flying over the event Wednesday, as well as another rally headlined by Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday, but no members of the media were on board and no photos from the helicopter have been released.
Looking back to “Restoring Honor,” media accounts of the crowd size varied quite a bit. However, even the lowest estimate from CBS News appears to have dwarfed Wednesday’s event.
CBS News: 87,000 (plus or minus 9,000)
ABC News: 100,000
NBC News: Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Between 120,000 – 200,000
Washington Post: Between 80,000 – 200,000
Australia’s Daily Telegraph: 300,000
Photographic evidence provides additional clues. Here’s a shot of the crowd at “Restoring Honor” taken from high above the crowd.
The website PhotoSynth.net offers an image that can be rotated and viewed from many angle. It appears to show considerably more people attended 2010′s “Restoring Honor” rally than Wednesday’s March on Washington anniversary.
How many were on the National Mall on 8-28-2013 vs. 8-28-2010? The photos show a compelling argument that Beck’s rally was an easy winner in the total attendees category. However, neither came close to the 1963 crowd conservatively estimated to exceed 250,000 people for the original March on Washington.
Follow Mike Opelka on Twitter — @stuntbrain
We discussed this story on Thursday’s live BlazeCast with Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker and writer Mike Opelka: