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Washington DC 9/12/09 Tea Party Protests

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December 2, 2009 Tea Party documentary premiere in D.C. - For more details about the Tea Party documentary film and to order it on DVD, see   Follow Tea Party Movie on Twitter or on Facebook.  The documentary focuses on the 9/12 march on Washington DC by following five examples of participants, and what inspired their participation.  FreedomWorks blog has movie information, and the promotional trailer is also available at The Conservative Revolution blog.
Tea Party documentary film trailer - movie now available on DVD at

Here's an entertaining "Hi Caliber" rap video - Patriotic People - about the 9/12 march on D.C.

Looking at the Left - good photo journal of the 9/12 March on DC
See the 9/12 March on Washington D.C. crowd estimates below, including comparisons to past inaugurals.  There was nearly 3 hours of detailed video coverage on C-Span.  Our own crowd estimate at this time is 250,000+, plus tens of thousands at other recent events nationwide.

This compares very favorably to our prior analysis of the April 15 Tax Day Tea Party crowds, which the news media largely ignored or denigrated despite an estimated national turnout of 600,000 - 800,000+.

Many news media sources largely ignored the 9/12 rally while faithfully covering an Obama speech in Minneapolis where nothing newsworthy was said.  He repeated the same talking points as in his prime time address to a joint session of Congress a few days earlier.  This transparent attempt to divert public attention from the 9/12 protest was a failure, and further discredited the news media and White House.

Glenn Beck talked mainly about his own ideas for fighting corruption in both parties on 9/12, but at least Fox News covered the Tea Party Express rallies which led up to the protest on the National Mall.

Congratulations to everybody who participated in the 9/12/09 National Taxpayer Protest in Washington, DC or related events across the country.  Join the 9/12 March on Washington social network.  This rally was sponsored by FreedomWorks and co-sponsored by the Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and Young Americans for Liberty, among others.

Try our "Conservative Search" or Tea Party Search tool to look up recent coverage.  Our "Surge by State" pages also provide many local links for information or to get more involved.

Find what Republicans in the House or Senate are saying about health care or other issues.

News, photos, and blog coverage of the 9/12 March on Washington D.C.
 C-Span video coverage of the 9/12/09 FreedomWorks March on Washington - nearly 3 hours of video with speakers and crowd views.

Note the graphic in this USA Today story before the Obama inaugural which illustrated various past crowd estimates on the Mall for comparison.

September 12, 2009 - Fox News video of the 9/12 March on Washington

September 12, 2009 - Fox News video of US Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) on restoring America - to "turn this thing around"

The aerial photo below was found (without attribution to the source of the image) on various blogs which asserted that it showed the 9/12 rally.  Some sources now affirm that it is fake - which is very plausible.  It was probably taken more than 5 years ago, prior to the completion of a new museum which should appear at the corner of 4th and Independence Ave in the upper right.  The stage by the reflecting pool at the head of the crowd also appears to be different than the 9/12 rally.

Here's a Google map and related satellite view of the National Mall for perspective.  If you zoom in on the area by 4th and Independence in the satellite image, you can see the distinctive National Museum of the American Indian (a building which has no corners on the exterior by design).  That building is obviously missing from the aerial photo above - so the aerial photo clearly was NOT taken on 9/12/09.  The origin of the photo is not yet clear, but perhaps it was a concert or other major event on the Mall.  It would not be an inaugural photo because the trees have leaves and there is no crowd close to the Capitol.

Compare the actual crowd images from attendees and news media coverage to pictures from the Obama inaugural in January 2009The main difference is that nobody was allowed close to the Capitol building on 9/12, unlike ticketed guests for inaugural ceremonies in the ellipse area between the west face of the Capitol and the reflecting pool.

Obama fled the city on 9/12 to speak to 15,000 supporters at a staged event in Minneapolis to push his health care agenda.  Even fairly conservative news media estimates for the crowd size in Washington DC were 60,000 - 75,000 or more, with some estimates at well over 100,000.  If you look at the C-Span video coverage of the 9/12 rally and prior inaugural crowd images, that still seems to be conservative.

As explained below, we think the total was probably closer to 250,000, and perhaps much higher.

Crowd size estimates depend upon assumptions about how tightly the crowd was packed.  As evidenced by reliable photographs and video coverage on the ground, the higher estimates (based on 2.5 sq ft per person on average) seems quite plausible for areas close to the front of the event, but even a much lower estimate (based on 5 sq ft or more) vastly exceeds the media reports of "tens of thousands".

Estimates of 1.25 - 1.65 million used by the news media for the Obama inaugural crowd assumed as little as 2.0 sq ft per person on the National Mall.  Those were based upon satellite image analysis performed in London, but the satellite image shown with that analysis was of the ticketed area near the Capitol (i.e., the most densely packed area).  The estimate is plausible for the available space and crowd photos, but assumes a very high crowd density and may be excessive - as on election night in Chicago.

For simplicity, the space where the crowd was concentrated in the middle of the Mall (as in the aerial photo above - regardless of what event it actually shows) is roughly 5000 feet long and 500 feet wide, excluding a similar amount of space in the areas under the trees where even more people were gathered on this hot, sunny day.

Do the math.  That's around 2.5 million sq ft out in the open, or around 5 million sq ft in total (including the area under the trees).  If you assume 2.5 sq ft per person (tightly packed crowd) just in the open space down the middle of the Mall, that would be 1 million people (without adding anybody under the trees or elsewhere at the time of any particular photo).

Even if you assume that the crowd only covered the first few blocks of the open area in the middle of the Mall at this high density level, that could easily reach 250,000 people.  For reference, the ticketed area between the Capitol and the reflecting pool for inaugural ceremonies typically holds close to 250,000 people.

At a lower average density of 5.0 sq ft per person (as in past official crowd estimates), that would be 500,000 people in that open area alone (completely excluding the area under the trees).

To arrive at an estimate of only 100,000 people, by the same logic, you would have to assume 25 sq ft per person (i.e., a 5x5 space average) or that the crowd covered fewer blocks of the Mall than the videos and photos on the ground reveal.  Once again, the photos on the ground show considerable crowds under the trees closer to the Capitol at the front of the event.  That offsets the much thinner crowds closer to 14th Street by the Washington Monument at the back.

For a conservative protest, the turnout was massive, as can be seen by comparison to major Republican inaugural celebrations as listed below.  It is obviously much easier to attract large crowds of Democrats to inaugurals or protests in Washington DC (and to get news media to accept the large crowd estimates without question).  Many of the 9/12 participants travelled great distances from all over the country just to be there at significant personal expense, as various real journalists noticed.  That is very different from getting many residents from the Washington DC area to attend a major event.
For those who dispute the enormous crowd size, look through the C-Span video coverage or the selection of photos shared at StealthFusion or other sources.  This crowd may not have been as tightly packed as some events on the National Mall in the past, but the USA Today graphic (from January 20, 2009) gave estimates for reference from past inaugural celebrations.

The National Park Service stopped providing official crowd estimates after political controversy about their estimate that the "million man march" in 1995 was much smaller than the organizers had predicted or claimed, with only around 400,000 people.  Some academics claimed 800,000+, but not 1 million.

bullet1973 Richard M. Nixon inaugural - 300,000
bullet1989 George H.W. Bush inaugural - 300,000
bullet1977 Jimmy Carter inaugural - 350,000
bullet1981 Ronald Reagan inaugural - 500,000
bullet1993 Bill Clinton inaugural - 800,000  - see Smithsonian photo of the Mall and aerial photo.  Note that the ceremonies included a free concert by famous artists near the Lincoln Memorial, as explained here.  That concert reportedly attracted "hundreds of thousands" to the Mall.
bullet1965 Lyndon B. Johnson inaugural - 1,200,000
bullet2009 Barack Obama inaugural - see this ABC News blog with crowd estimates based upon analysts in London who used satellite imagery and assumptions about varying crowd density levels in different parts of the National Mall.  They estimated between 1 and 1.4 million people on the National Mall, plus around 240,000 ticketed guests closer to the Capitol.  Note that the estimate included tight crowd densities as high as 2 sq ft per person (unlike 2.5 - 5.0 reportedly used by the Park Service for past events on the Mall).  The image shown with the story is of the tightly packed crowd in the ticketed area near the Capitol.
For reference, here's a map showing a 1 mile radius from 1st Street on the west side of the Capitol to 14th Street, where the crowd breaks up in front of the Washington Monument.


September 13, 2009 - Gateway Pundit blog - Clean conservatives vs. filthy liberals - photos comparing the Mall in Washington after the 9/12 rally by comparison to the Obama inauguration crowd.

Other observers noted how friendly and well-behaved this spirited crowd was in general.  There were few reported incidents, but a few people were upset about alleged ACORN activists trying to sell Gadsden flags to the crowd as a way to profit from the event.  There's a YouTube video about that alleged activity.

September 13, 2009 - Washington Times - Capitol "tea party" rally assails big government
September 12, 2009 - Fox News / AP - Tea Party Express Takes Washington By Storm - see also a related story about Democratic gamesmanship with false projections of unrealistic crowd size as a tactic to try to brand the event as a failure.  The success of the event soon made that tactic irrelevant, but many in the news media still treated it as a very minor news item worthy of only brief coverage.  By contrast, there was considerable coverage of Obama's speech to a staged rally in Minneapolis even though there was virtually nothing new or newsworthy in what he said there.  It was just a PR diversion.
Photo of the 9/12 March on Washington.  See also for more coverage.
PowerLine blog - text of speech given by US Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) at the 9/12 March on Washington DC.  Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) was another featured speaker, as was Representative Tom Price (R-GA).  The event was not, however, organized by the Republican party or affiliated with it.
September 12, 2009 - AP - Thousands of downtown DC protesters blast Obama

Refer to the Agenda of the 9/12 rally in Washington DC for more details.

Tea Party Patriots has launched a new "Contract from America" initiative to exchange ideas.

Free Republic planned a "Free Republic National Tea Party Convention" in Arlington VA from September 11 -13.
Tea Party Express - more video clips below from news coverage of the national tour
Tea Party Express rallies on Labor Day - September 8 starting in New Lenox, IL (Joliet area)

The "Our Country Deserves Better" PAC has launched a new "Tea Party Express" as described at  to promote a series of Tea Party rallies across the country from August 28 to September 12.  This has sponsorship ties to the Tea Party Patriots as well.

Follow news links about the Tea Party Express on their website, or the official Tea Party Express blog reports.

Fox News report of August 23 prior to the start of the Tea Party Express tour.  Fox News also has Griff Jenkins covering the tour through the "Great American blog" related to Sean Hannity's show.

American Liberty Tour - September 10 - October 13 - is another multistate tour to encourage local political activism.  This is a project of the American Liberty Alliance, American Majority, and Americans for Limited Government.
It is not entirely clear what role "The 912 Project" participants and Glenn Beck (Fox News) played.  The Glenn Beck website and his show shared some information as plans developed, which helped to spread the word.  Glenn chose to cover the 9/12 protest in Washington DC from his studio in New York.
Health care town halls - see lists at Tea Party Patriots or Fox News (Democrat or GOP)
Following the Independence Day Tea Party protests on the 4th of July in many cities, like the earlier Tax Day Tea Party protests on April 15, plans developed quickly for protests in Washington DC and elsewhere in September 2009, whether on 9/12/09 or other dates.
FreedomsFirst had started promoting a "March to Save America" in Washington DC on 9/12/09, as shown by this enthusiastic "Thomas Paine" video.  That was cancelled, but FreedomWorks and other sponsors organized the 9/12 rally as indicated above.  This video remains entertaining anyway.

Tea Party Express news coverage - ignored by many networks, but reported by Fox News
August 29 - Tea Party Express starts in Sacramento, CA with around 5000 people and in Reno, Nevada as stop #2.  Note the originality of all the signs, as in the other Tea Party protests and rallies, unlike the "astroturf" organizers such as professional activists who show up with professionally designed and printed pro-Obama signs to hand out.  There are few such counter-protesters at this point.

September 2, 2009 - Tea Party Express coverage in Las Cruces, New Mexico - Day 5, 9th stop and coverage of the earlier visit to Albuquerque, NM

September 3, 2009 - Tea Party Express arrives in Waco, Texas - Day 7, 12th stop and earlier stop in San Antonio, TX

September 12, 2009 - Times of London report from Jackson, MI - Tea Party Express hits the road in protest at Obama healthcare plans - at least British news media are paying attention, if not US MSM

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Many thanks to everyone!

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Last modified: 06/07/11