Saturday, April 18, 2009

Me at the Tea Party

Rod Williams at the Tea Party Nashville
I really was at the Tea Party. The next day, I opened The Tennessean and the Tea Party was front page news with a large picture. I casually scanned the picture to see if I recognized anyone in it, and there I was. They got about two-thirds of my face. My lovely wife, unfortunately, was hidden by the sign.

The Tennessean said about 3000 people attended the event. I think there were a lot more than that. I counted a block of 100 people (ten across, ten deep) and then did some quick calculating and there were about 250 on the steps adjoining the stage on each side of the stage and about another 200 on the hill behind the stage. So, that is 700 people either parallel with the stage or behind the stage. And, the plaza was packed with people spilling into the side streets and into the courtyard of the Memorial building. The plaza is a park about the size of a half city block. It can hold a lot of people. There may have been as many as 8 to 9,000 people there. I certainly think 3000 is a low estimate.
In addition to the people on the ground, there was a constant steam of cars circling the site, blowing their horn in support. Also, there is no way to know how many people would have attended if there was not a shortage of parking. On a work day, Nashville has a shortage of parking, within walking distance. There is a limit to how many extra people can park downtown on a work day. There was no organized shuttle from satellite parking facilities. In any event it was a capacity crowd, well in excess of The Tennessean's estimate of 3000.

If I am not at an event and only read about it, here is my rule of thumb for interpreting news accounts of crowd estimates: If the event is a liberal cause, I cut the reported estimate by a third; if it is a conservative cause, I multiply by three. If it is a non-political event I figure the estimate could be between 50% and 200% correct. Estimating a crowd is difficult no doubt, but I certainly think they underestimated the size of this crowd.

Here is the The Tennesseans coverage of the event:

Riled Tea Partiers rip government spending

By Colby Sledge • THE TENNESSEAN • April 16, 2009

Nearly 3,000 protesters gathered outside the state Capitol on Wednesday to take part in a nationwide "Tax Day Tea Party," the latest and largest version of a widespread conservative effort to protest taxes and government spending. [full article]

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