This discussion has now been revived, after the new political coalition around Bidzina Ivanishvili started its full-scale entry into politics by gathering supporters on central Freedom Square of Tbilisi. Widely varying estimates of attendance numbers have been put forward. The Georgian police estimated the size of crowd as 30 000, supporters of Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream claimed that about 300 thousand people gathered on Freedom square, however, independent observers suggested 80 thousand attendees had come to the rally.
The analysis is based on visual assessment of density in the parcels, following Jacobs' method. Where people are
- standing tightly we assigned the score 0.23,
- crowded but not pushing each other, we assigned the score 0.42
- standing in a distance of one person’s arm, we used the score of 0.93.
Now, several remarks on these numbers:
- Jacobs' approach only yields rough numbers, +/-20%.
- numbers work both ways, as various people have pointed out; it may be worth coming to some sort of consensus in Georgia how many people Freedom Square holds when it's crowded, and then apply that consistently.
- ultimately, quantity is not legitimacy; a protest that is conducted civilly and that gets people to engage and discuss is plenty legitimate, so the entire numbers game is a bit problematic, and not only in Georgia.
That being said, we think the Jacobs method is as good as it gets, for quick assessments. Since we only counted 13 parcels, out of 29, and want to make this method more broadly available, we encourage our readers to be involved! Crowds can help count crowds.
Use our raw materials to assess the number of attendees. Download the spreadsheet, use the robust Jacobs method, and send it back to us when you are done. Also, feel free to send your comments and estimations, the topic is open for discussion!