Water Charges Protest - Regime Media Numbers Just Don't Add Up


Sometimes the media don't do a very good job of hiding their agenda. Wednesday's mass protest against water charges in Dublin city centre was a prime example. While anyone who was present could see that this was one of the biggest demonstrations in recent times, despite being on a workday afternoon in the middle of winter, the media tried to downplay the numbers.

While initially, the Garda press office said it wouldn't be releasing an estimate of the crowd numbers, within the hour, it backtracked, and said gave a number of 30,000 "plus". Of course, that is technically correct, the crowd did number over thirty thousand, but citing that figure insinuates that there might have been one or two thousand more, not the massive numbers that people who experienced the demo for themselves witnessed. It was as if they plucked a number out of the air.


Most of the media mentioned that the protest organisers estimated 100,000 in attendance but also that the Garda press office had put the numbers in and around 30,000, without further comment. If they really wanted to report the truth, they could have, because it was clear to any observer who was present that the Garda figure was a gross underestimation. You could compare this to reports of anti-choice rallies, where the media have unquestioningly reported the overblown estimates of the organisers. One such rally, at Merrion square in January 2013 was reported as having between 25,000 and 40,000 in various news sources, as you will see below, that number wasn't physically possible. It's a good ilustration of the bias in the media.

The worst example of figure fudging appeared on the Irish Times website on Wednesday night, when journalist, Ronan McGreevy attempted to coroborate the Garda figure by using an app called CrowdSize.  His estimate came to 32,000. It all looked very plausable, if you weren't there. The problem with McCreevy's use of the app, was that he only filled a fraction of the ground that was covered by protesters, the area around Merrion Square west, where the stage was. It is possible that he didn't move from that area, but it wouldn't have been too difficult to see that Merrion Square south was also full of protesters. That was the area that the anti-choice rally didn't even fill over a year ago that media sources claimed 25,000 people filled.

As you can see from the photo below, CrowdSize estimates that just over 19,000 people can fit in that area. I was on that side distributing leaflets for about twenty minutes at the start of the demo, and as I was leaving to move over to the other side, it was almost full, with more local groups still marching in. I went ahead and ran the app for all the areas I covered on foot during the day and only what I could actually see with the naked eye. Later I believe, there were people on the other sides of Merrion Sq and inside it. Because I didn't see the volume I've left them out. I also don't know how far Westland Row the crowd went so it stops short at my field of vision.

When I was on Nassau St I took a shortcut up to Molesworth st through the side of the Kilkenny shop, so there I've only included as far as the eye could see, but I believe that went all the way around to college green, so that could easily be 5,000 or more extra. Also from photos I saw it looked like there were several thousand who turned back and occupied O'Connell Bridge and street. The photos were taken around the time I was on Nassau street, so they couldn't have been the same people.

Overall, the estimate I got from running CrowdSize on the areas I covered was around 65,000, and given what others have told me about numbers in areas I didn't cover, the attendance had to have been in excess of 80,000 at the very least. 


Video of sections of the crowd

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