Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Just How Big Was That Crowd? Getting an Answer Isn't Easy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Just How Big Was That Crowd? Getting an Answer Isn't Easy

Article excerpt

Someone could do a big public service by bringing turnstiles to protest marches.

There seems no way to resolve controversies over crowd numbers. Protest organizers always say they have more people than police or reporters or opponents say they have.

But you would think that counting a few dozen people would not be so controversial. A Feb. 17 march by the NAACP in Lake City over the Confederate battle flag in the city's logo produced disagreements over the size of the protesting group.

The Gainesville Sun's story said there were about 30.

The Lake City Reporter's story said there were about 40.

The Times-Union said there were about 70 protesters and at least 100 opposing them.

John W. Adams, Florida division commander, Sons of Confederate Veterans, said there were more like 24 protesters and about 250 people opposing them. The difference was so great that Adams said the Times-Union "intentionally inflated the numbers to appear more even."

He suggested I call the Lake City police for an official number. I did and was told their number was closer to 30. They offered no number for the counter-protesters.

How about the NAACP? Surely, it is the best source for its own members. Glenel Bowden, president of the Columbia County NAACP, said there were about 75 to 80. He explained the different numbers by saying not all the NAACP supporters were gathered in front of the viewing stand. Some were dispersed throughout the crowd.

Times-Union staff writer Alliniece Andino arrived at her number this way: "It was based on what I saw and inferred from Bowden who pointed out supporters in other viewing areas. I don't disagree that there may have been about 200 or more Confederate flag supporters. It was difficult to get a perfect count because people filed into areas behind flag wavers and protesters, so it's hard to say who was solely a parade spectator and who should be included in the group. …

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