Size matters — at least when it comes to the size of our protests.
Though final count is still being tabulated, researchers Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman of the Crowd Counting Consortium estimate that over 1.25 million people across the United States participated in Saturday's March for Our Lives protest, making it one of the largest youth-led protests in American history, at least since the Vietnam War.
Beyond youth-led protests, March for Our Lives is also poised to become one of the biggest protests, period, in American history, surpassed only by the Women's March in 2017, where an estimated 4.15 million people participated, and the Women's March in 2018, where anywhere from 1.6 to 2.5 million people participated domestically.
These numbers aren't an accident. A combustible array of variables, including the rise in authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism worldwide and technology that makes it easier to organize sibling marches, have contributed to historic turnouts.
The counts are already huge. Now get ready for them to explode.
It's important to emphasize that measuring protest size is an imprecise art. Estimates of Saturday's Washington D.C. protest have ranged anywhere from 202,000 from Digital Design and Imaging Service, which uses drones to collect aerial data, to over 800,000 from organizers themselves, who collect RSVPs and data about public transportation usage. While the public tends to distrust data that comes from organizers, Chenoweth cautions that organizers are often more transparent about their data collection methods.
"I actually think the conservative estimate here is really quite conservative," Chenoweth says. "The drones are doing snapshots at given moments in time, but they're limited by their bird's-eye view of buildings, or different obstructions, especially when people are moving."
To arrive at their estimate (which is still being updated), Pressman and Chenoweth take a 10 percent deduction of the highest estimated count, provide a 10 percent boost to the lowest estimate, and then average the two. Using this method, their best guess for Saturday's turnout in D.C. hovers around 471,000.