Stewart’s Rally for Sanity Causes Crowd Size Insanity

Rall for Sanity
Photos courtesy of Author

60,000 people were expected, according to the permit filed with the NPS by Comedy Central, yet 150,000 were planned for when it came to the uber-important decision as to how many portable toilets were needed. Jon Stewart started out the rally with his satirical people count swag of 10,000,000. But how many people really were there? Well, you knew this was coming and we’ve only seen the beginning of the insanity over the sanity. Rough estimates from various sources say somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people were in attendance for the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Saturday afternoon. Check out this crowd pic. If those numbers are accurate, however, it puts the rally size right around the same size as the Glenn Beck Rally to Restore Honor from a few months ago. Allow the great debate to begin. Who’s more popular? Stewart or Beck? Honor or Sanity?

But let’s not just focus on the crowd size. It doesn’t matter if there were 100,000 people or 500,000 people – if you were anywhere near downtown, you know it was packed! What do you get when you add a famous comedian’s rally, which encourages creative costumes and signs, to the day before Halloween overly-eager-trick-or-treater-crowd in DC? A damn good day of people watching, that’s for sure. The Mall was absolutely packed and wall to wall for most of the area from the Capitol to the Monument. But it wasn’t just the slew of people that made it interesting – it was the vibe that this rally carried. While most people going into it, including myself, didn’t necessarily even know what to expect or why they were really going, the energy and tone set by the thousands of attendees made for a sea of clever signs at a rally that was not really political at all, but instead themed around fun, human tolerance and taking a step back from the fury of sensationalism in the media. No media outlet or political party was spared from the video montages meant to draw attention to just how obsessed with fear mongering our society has become and how our beloved 24 hour news cycle seems to amplify it to no end.

Rall for Sanity

The Roots, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, Cat Stevens, Ozzy, Tony Bennett…I never expected to see all of these stars at a free event today and I wonder if the organizers even knew who would be secured to perform until the very last minute, especially given the ambiguous nature of the released agenda. It wasn’t all gold – some of the day’s events were less than enthralling and my back is absolutely killing me from standing in place for 4 hours shoulder to shoulder. But overall, I’m really glad I made it to witness this coming together of so many people from all over the country who really just want the nation to chill out. Facebook shows that many of my friends, representing both major parties, made the trek in for the rally and that makes me excited. Excited that we’ve still got it; we’ve still got sanity.

Rall for Sanity
Attendees young and old made sure to capture the action

Were you there? Do you have any experiences, crazy signs or fun stories to share? Post in the comments below. And don’t forget to share your best pictures in the WLDC Flickr pool.

Karl is a Washingtonian who lives and breathes everything that is DC. Politics, ethnic restaurants, sad sports teams, the Metro and pretty much anything in between. Karl’s life is kind of like going to a Nats’ game while eating Ethiopian food and discussing the latest legislation to pass the House. Then cramming on the Metro for a ride home. That ’bout sums it up. See why Karl loves DC or check him out on Twitter.

37 thoughts on “Stewart’s Rally for Sanity Causes Crowd Size Insanity

  1. Most estimates for Beck’s rally were 86,000-96,000. The only estimate higher was Fox, and theirs was so ridiculous as to be laughable (5000,000 to a million).

    So, this was two to three times that size, even if you don’t want to focus on numbers.

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  3. No way. I was about 1/4 a mile from the stage and it was still shoulder to shoulder, and a guy climbed the stoplight and took a photo – packed with people, all the way to tenth street! I was there in it, and I say there’s no way it was under 300k people.

  4. At 7th St there were still people coming in as others were leaving around 2. No one could get closer; there was nowhere to go. Fire/EMS couldn’t even get through the crowd (except for one “supervisor” car that crept through using the lights and siren. As fast as space cleared around the car, it closed back in. Most everyone was friendly and happy to be there, in spite of congestion. 150K easy; maybe 200+, depending. We couldn’t see the back of the crowd.

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  6. Remember that the Glen Beck crowd had the ability to sit on reclining camp chairs with foot rests and avoid anyone invading their personal space. I was also stuck in the crowd on 7th Street and we were beyond sardines. This was bigger than the Beck crowd – which also got to look bigger thanks to the reflecting pool taking up the prime space in the middle.

  7. I think it was 200k , maybe 250k. In general, the more enthusiastic someone is about an event, the higher they’ll guess. (Hence Stewart’s 10 million)I’m very interested to see a more methodical, scientific count, though.

  8. Metro employee at Smithsonian station reported system management estimated transporting nearly 400k people (I would expect this to incorporate all public transit options) to the vicinity of the rally.

  9. The crowd size was much larger than what you can see on the mall, since getting space on the mall where you could see or hear anything was next to impossible. Here was the scene at 7th and Pennsylvania at 1:30pm, while the show was going on and the mall was still completely full.

    Many of my friends were also unable to make it in, as the Metro system was completely overloaded and had lines for hours.

  10. The Glenn Beck rally had more than twice as many people. The guy who said “Most estimates for Beck’s rally were 86,000-96,000” is absolutely wrong. NBC News had 300,000; Sky News had 500,000. I’ve seen estimates for the Beck rally as high as 650,000.

  11. LouF, Late Saturday night, CBS released crowd size estimates from the same firm they used to estimate the crowd for the Beck rally. The initial estimate, from analyzing aerial photography, was 215,000 +- 10%. This is the only estimate that I am aware of that used the same methodology for both events. WAGs by politicians (Michele Bachmann said 1 million) or rodeo clowns (Beck claimed 500,000) do not count. I suspect that CBS’s numbers for both events are on the conservative side, not counting people who gave up, who arrived and left, or who were outside the mall itself. But the ratio between the two events seems unlikely to change.

    After comparing photos of both events, I see nothing to doubt about CBS’s numbers. The Beck event was much less densely packed, while yesterday’s crowd overflowed the mall into side streets for a considerable distance. Metro staff said they had more than 400,000 riders yesterday. I stood in line at the Greenbelt station from 10:45 to 12:30 to get a Metro pass, and personally observed many people leaving the line because they gave up. During that entire time, the line never got shorter, and I saw many, many cars enter the parking lot looking for nonexistent parking spaces.

  12. LouF,

    Michelle Bachman estimated the Beck rally at 1.6 million. Jon Stewart put his crowd at 10 million, while Colbert said there were six billion.

    So, if we are looking for the largest estimate, the 10-30-10 rally clearly wins.

    NBC made no estimate of the Beck rally. They quoted a random person who estimated 300,000.

    CBS hired experts who used consistent methodolgies to estimate both crowds. Those same experts, by the way, also debunked the claim that Obama had a million people there for his inauguration.

  13. Sanity Rules! I love how LouF comes back with the same made up garbage and all the posters go and methodically state facts. No one calls him a moron, they just politely correct LouF for being wrong. If only these kinds of people ran our country.

    Oh – and I was right in the middle of the Stewart rally. There were people in trees and all of the porta potties had people on top of them because there was no where else to sit. Ya – that’s a LOT of people.

    Also – the Mall is WAY bigger than the pool and was completely packed. I couldn’t move.

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  15. That is simply incorrect. NBC News had the Beck Rally at 300,000 and the Comedy Central rally at “tens of thousands”. You are welcome to your political leanings but objectively, there were in the neighborhood of three times the number of people at the Beck rally.

  16. LouF: And just what evidence did NBC offer for their figures? Anybody can pull figures out of the air (and most do). NBC also reported this today:

    “Metro set a new record for Saturday trips on Metrorail on Saturday, October 30 — a record that surely belongs to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

    By preliminary estimates, Metro recorded 825,437 Metrorail trips on Saturday.”

    Looking at the aerial images for the two events, it’s obvious which was bigger — and it wasn’t Beck. Beck rally photos taken before the National Museum of the American Indian was built in 2004 are not credible visual evidence.

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  18. “Ridership” is not the issue. The Metrorail services far more than just Comedy Central rallies.

  19. So, what other events were taking place in DC on October 30 that would put such huge numbers of people on the Metro? Every single person standing in line with me at the the Greenbank metro station appeared to be going to the rally. remains the only information source that has actually produced analyses of the two rallies based on data, rather than hearsay. Keep in mind that many Obama supporters were upset by’s estimate of 800,000 people for Obama’s inauguration, when they believed the crowd exceeded 1 million. has no partisan ax to grind in this; they’re just looking at the evidence. Where is the supporting evidence for NBC’s 300,000 figure in August?

  20. I planned a family getaway for that weekend, and much to my chagrin, found out that this was the weekend for Stewart’s Rally. I am pretty neutral about this, and the crowds were huge! I have been to many sold out baseball and football games, and never saw the kind of madness going on like this rally. There were at least 200,000 people there. We had to wait in line for an hour to get on the subway. That was at the third station that we went to, as the first two had no remaining parking places. (the third station (Pentagon City) had paid parking decks.)

    I have been trying to see what Beck’s rally had, and the crowd takes up about the same space (i’m looking at the pictures and google earth, and using the line tool to measure: about .5 miles x .15) But the Beck crowd was thinner. I remember seeing the pictures back in September and thinking that MLKjr had the people shoulder to shoulder. Beck’s were loose, like they were just standing around. Close up pictures show this too. Also remember that the reflecting pool takes up a ton of room. Stewart had them shoulder to shoulder. It was a madhouse trying to get through and keeping tabs on my wife and step kids.

    We were never close enough to even hear what was going on, besides music. We were there for the Smithsonian, and the people were in our way. People were all the way up on the East Gallery steps, and covering the promenades of all the museums. We were heading towards the Lincoln Memorial around 3:30 and someone was on the phone talking about “we just got here, we missed the whole thing!”

  21. Well, as one of the people who went to both (well, I was requested to go to the Beck one just to gawk… the Stewart/Colbert was willing) – I’d say that the Sanity crowd was larger… the actual dispersal from Stewart/Colbert was faster than the Beck rally, as there was a higher density of Metro stations closer to the event than at the other end of The Mall.

    I saw the NPSPP helicopter fly over at various times during the event on Saturday, so they have plenty of photos to start – plus, at least the Stewart/Colbert event actually started with a head count… I think they got to 6 before giving up….

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  23. The Beck crowd was NOT thinner. Dude, NBC News isn’t lying to you. There were literally triple the people at the Beck rally. Saying “the actual dispersal from Stewart/Colbert was faster than the Beck rally” fools nobody.

  24. Lou F: Were you at this event? Also, were you at Becks event? Because if you were anywhere in the vicinity for either rally you would know for yourself that there at least twice the people present for the Stewart rally. Stop believing everything you read and hear and make some decisions based on facts for yourself. It will make our country a more intelligent place to live. Obviously this crowd size issue bothers you for
    some reason.. But don’t let it get to you. The fact is that Stewart is in touch with a much greater demographic of people than Beck and it was obvious on saturday. So there is no need to fight back on crowd size… It shouldn’t matter anyway. We’re all in this together, so let’s act like it.

  25. I’m fine with LouF, or anyone else taking Beck’s side, citing NBC as fact. As long as that person doesn’t dismiss it as “elitist”, “biased” or “lamestream media” when it doesn’t suit his or her ideology.

  26. I was at Beck’s rally. A lot of folks were in lounge chairs or sitting on the grass on blankets. There was plenty of room to move around, except for that big pool of water in the middle of the crowd. Also, it was really, really boring and uninspiring.

    I was at the Stewart/Colbert rally. My girlfriend and I walked down 7th Street from Chinatown (after walking from the H Street, NE, neighborhood) and ran into thousands of people going our way. We hit a wall of people at Madison Drive, the cross street adjacent to the Mall on the north side, and couldn’t move anymore. After hanging out for an hour, we then struggled to walk to the Washington Monument, where we saw that the crowd stretched unbroken from 3rd to 10th, and then it continued on the walkways because the lawn was fenced for reseeding. People were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with no room for sitting, let alone lounge chairs or blankets, for about 1/3 the length of the east side of the Mall.

    Anyone who says there were more people at Glenn Beck’s rally is either misinformed, delusional, or flat out lying to you. And chances are they weren’t at one or the other.

  27. Metro rail ridership data show 315,000 more trips taken on the Stewart/Colbert rally day than the Beck rally day.

    According to Metro, there were 825,437 on Stewart/Colbert day and 510,020 on Beck day. Average Saturday ridership is about 350,000 (both events were on a Saturday).

    If you exclude the average daily riders, and assume two trips per person (one there, one back), that yields 80,010 for Beck and 237,718 for Stewart/Colbert.

    This method corresponds to APL’s analysis of 87,000 for Beck and 215,000 for Stewart/Colbert. But don’t let facts get in the way of ignorance.

    Kind regards

  28. Ahem, Dear Fact Check
    The DC Metro is a Government owned and thus SOCIALIST enterprise. I believe most Tea Partiers would far rather take corporate chartered buses than sink to using your tools of totalitarism. The Glenn Beck rally was well a organized, well sponsored, well advertised event, with few costumes and virtually, if any signs, we could easily fit in more people in smaller spaces.

    Further more many of the ralliers were political apathist searching for a good time, and many of the 20 somethings are unregistered or just plain unlikely to vote.

    You can laugh all you want, but without voter turnout, activism, or provoking the media narrative, YOU CANNOT change the system.

  29. Dear Yay!,

    This is nothing new. Facts are irrelevant (see perpetually-undead birther “debate”). Impartial evidence can be thrown at this side but they’re of little use against emotionally charged fearmongering and condescending pseudointellectualism.

    Also, it strikes me that the Fear/Sanity crowd might be more likely/accustomed to take(ing) public transit than Beck’s (re: Metro numbers).

  30. Alright everyone pull out your tallywhackers and let’s see who is the longest. Men always exagerate so we know Glenn Beck’s isn’t 500,000 and Stephen despite all his Formula 401 tugging isn’t anywhere close to 6 billion.

    So to use an actual ruler Glenn Beck’s spongy is between 78,000 and 96,000(even though his permit set girls mouths watering for a crowd of 300,000).

    Jon and Stephen combined range from a limp 193.5K to a firm 236.5
    Assuming the duo are the same size, which we know they are not, each is about 107,500 (yet set expectations for a mere 60K, 30K each; prooving they clearly are briefs men who like it tightly coiled).

    Making them each 20% longer than Beck’s dangly friend. Of course some of that difference maybe accounted for by cohost Sarah Palin having an “inny” instead of an “outy” and decreasing the total when the surplus and defecit were averaged together.

    But Louis Farrakhan and his million man appendage extends between 669,600 to 1,004,400 when look at scientifically by a bunch of college kids. Granted Jesse and Al contributed their beast to measure. But that still leaves us with 279.

    And Obama drew 800,000 (I can’t find the limp/firm range, I assume that is intensely guarded NSA secret).

    Historical crowd size estimates are less dependable because of lack of limited aerial perspective.

    But clearly the Black Men are winning!

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