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The Politics of Numbers: How Do You Count a Crowd?

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, March 29, 2010, at 10:58AM
March on Broadway Ed Fuentes

Participants in Saturday's Full Rights for Immigrants march pass 4th street on Broadway.

In the politics of marches, urgency is measured by numbers. Supporters of immigration reform bills hope to see strong turnouts at events like Saturday's Full Rights for Immigrants march as a sign that the issue is riding a popular upswell.

So how many people were there to march? Depends on who you ask.

There's no question that Saturday's march brought a larger turnout than have the last few attempts, but it's fair to assume there was a little padding involved when one organizer told blogdowntown that 50,000 had attended. Spanish-speaking media reports put the number between 6,000 and 10,000, though blogdowntown thinks it may have been closer to 12,000.

LAPD, the media's traditional source for crowd counts, has chosen to take a more mum approach at recent marches, declining to state the department's internal estimates.

The larger event did get things underway more quickly. Enough participants gathered before the noon start time that the march was started a few minutes early, said Central Division Captain Todd Chamberlain.

While it doesn't compare to the 500,000 who descended on Downtown in 2006 to march, 12,000 people is still a significant turnout. "I'm happy with the number of folks who want to send the message that it's time for reform," said Councilman Jose Huizar after speaking at the rally on North Broadway, between First and Temple. "At the end of the day, it doesn't just benefit immigrants. It benefits all of us. If these people can come out of the shadows and participate in the American mainstream, we want everyone to realize that's good for everyone."

Marchers will return to Downtown on May 1, which this year falls on a Saturday.

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