Yesterday’s demonstration to remember Hariri and all the other martyrs had roughly a million people show up…at least that’s what everybody said. It seems that his ‘million’ is not really based on actual observation, but rather on more intangible matters, such as pride, prestige and the fact that a million just sounds really good. So, how many people DID actually attend?
Well, to find this out, you’d first have to get an overview of the location. Google is your friend and their Google Earth application gives you a clear satellite picture of downtown Beirut.
Next step would be to measure the size of the demonstration. I simply assumed that it covered the whole of Freedom Square. Google Earth provides a nice tool that measures out the length of a path, so I delineated Freedom Square and looked what Google told me. Turns out, the circumference of the demonstration yesterday was roughly 1,600 meter, see picture below.
An area with a circumference of 1,600 meter can be drawn as a rectangle of 400 meter by 400 meter. Likewise, it is easy to calculate the demonstration covered 400x400 = 160,000 square meter.
Now let’s assume you can put 3 people on each square meter. This is rather generous: draw a square meter on the ground and try for yourself if you can fit 3 people. Real cozy, but hey, it was Valentine yesterday, so let’s assume people were standing shoulder to shoulder.
The turnout would then be: 160,000 square meter x 3 people = 480,000 people only! Note that a more realistic assumption of 2.5 people per square meter would lead to only 400,000 people. That’s not even close to the million were mentioning.
Sure, there were people still flowing to the demonstration while it was in full swing. So let’s add them. From Downtown to Jdeideh is roughly 5.5 kilometer. Let’s make it easy and assume 6 kilometer. Now assume that every car takes up 5 meters of the road (when standing still, the moment the cars start driving the distance between cars becomes much more) and let’s assume the cars were 5 lanes wide. Also, let’s assume every car had 5 passengers and that there were in total 3 roads leading towards Beirut like this. So how many people would have been stuck in traffic?
Easy: (6 kilometer / 5 meter) x 5 lanes x 5 passengers per car * 3 roads = 90,000 people were stuck in traffic. Again, these assumptions are rather generous, but hey, let's burst the bubble as softly and nicely as we can.
In total this would mean that 480,000 + 90,000 = 570,000 people attended or tried to attend the Hariri demonstration. That’s still quite far from the 1 million. Not that this little fact would matter much in Lebanon. Like three years ago, the demonstration yesterday will also go down in history as the 1 Million people demo.