Hey, Congress: Get Over the Million Man March and Let the Park Service Start Estimating Again!
For City Paper's current issue I wrote about Butch Street, the National Park Service analyst who used to provide the media with an official crowd estimate at inaugurations and other large events on the Mall.
Congress kicked Street and his agency out of the estimating business for DC events after the controversy over the size of the Million Man March in 1995. Street said 400,000 showed up; organizer Louis Farrakhan wanted the government to declare a crowd in the seven-figures, to match the title of his gathering.
So, there's no official arbiter anymore.
And news accounts of yesterday's concert on the mall show how mussed up historical records will be until the Park Service gets back at it.
CBS says "a crowd of tens of thousands" showed up to see Springsteen.
Radio Free Europe told its audience "some 75,000" were there for Aretha Franklin.
The Irish Times wrote that "a crowd of hundreds of thousands" showed up to see Bono.
Richard Nixon's hometown paper, the Whitter Daily News went with "more than 300,000."
The Sudbury Star of Canada divulged that the president-elect "enthralled a crowd of 500,000."
Britain's Daily Mail was less conservative, reporting that when Obama spoke at the concert, he was "facing more than half a million people."
Far as I can tell, as diverse as these numbers are, nobody guesstimated that a million folks showed up.
Farrakhan must be pleased.