Numbers Game at San Diego Anti-ALEC Protests

by on July 23, 2015 · 5 comments

in American Empire, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Education, Environment, History, Labor, Media, Organizing, Politics, San Diego


Rally against ALEC. (all photos by Frank Gormlie)

Looks Like San Diego Union Tribune Is Up to its Old Tricks In Downplaying Dissent

A hell of a lot of people came out to protest ALEC’s convention yesterday in downtown San Diego. Local demonstrators had their numbers bolstered by bus-loads of union members from Los Angeles.

There were the labor locals, the environmentalists, the Democrats, the progressives and social activists – and many people energized to protest ALEC because they’ve been educated in just what it is and what it does.


There were a lot of demonstrators.  Just how many is a good question. And now we’re in a numbers game in trying to determine just how many people were protesting against the right-wing lobby and legislative powerhouse – with all its corporate sponsors.

But it’s more than a guessing game. Some citizen journalists actually count heads at events such as this. Dave Rice of the San Diego Reader told me he stood in front of the crowd as it marched over to the Marriott Hotel – the site of the ALEC convention. He told me he counted 1100 – but didn’t add the stragglers back over at the rally site. So, a conservative number he said would be about 1200.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATell that to the San Diego Union Tribune reporter. Joshua Stewart has different numbers.  And tell that to that union member I spoke with – she had different numbers as well.

Thus – the numbers game is on.

Stewart at the U-T reported: “several hundred people organized by Democrats, labor and liberal groups descended on downtown ….”  Several hundred? Like 300 or 400? Way off – I was there. Even despite its sale to the LA Times company, a shady number like that reminds us of the old days when the paper was published by Copley and then Manchester – they always underestimated the numbers of San Diegans who dissented to their corporate narrative about the finest city, or who protested the various wars – such as the Iraq war.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHell, there were hundreds of Teamsters alone at the San Diego protest from all over the country.

The union member with an orange T-shirt and red vest signifying she was at least a monitor for the event, told me her number was 3500.  That also didn’t seem right.

Who else had numbers?

The online Reporting San Diego stated:

The march drew about 3500 people, we estimate. It might have been higher, but we are being somewhat conservative.

And then it added:

Mickey Kasparian President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local 135 estimated that crowd at 4,000.


March to the Marriott.

San Diego’s Fox5 estimated “more than 1,000 protesters,” but had a headline that blurted “Hundreds protest”.  KPBS agreed with that.  10News also uses City News Service, so their estimate was also “more than a 1000”.


Demonstrators converge in front of hotel where a second rally was held.

CBS8 used an earlier version of the CNS report which cited just “hundreds”. And on the radio side of the news, KFMB went with the “more than 1000 protesters.”

Here’s what our colleague Doug Porter over at the San Diego Free Press said about the numbers:

One enthusiastic partisan told me his best guess was the crowd topped out at 7500. Some TV outlets went with “several hundred.” (Several hundred were bused in from the LA area alone)  The Times of San Diego and media outlets relying on City News Service went with “more than a thousand.” NBC7 said two thousand.

The thing that matters is the impact of the action. And in that regard, I’d say it was successful. All the coverage included some mention–at least in passing–of what ALEC is about.


Yet, it does appear that local mainstream media settled on “more than 1000” without really doing an actual count, and instead relying on a local news service (CNS) to do their counting for them.



Was it more than 1000 protesters?

Yes, and Dave Rice said it did an actual head count.

At this protest, I did not conduct a head count myself. I did remember a past demonstration at that very site by local San Diego teachers in May 2011. Our estimates of that crowd – which was larger than Sunday’s I’d have to say – were 2000 in one article and 3000 in another.

What’s my final number? I’m going with 1500.

Does it matter how many people there were? You bet it does. The impact is partially based on how many bodies presented themselves in opposition to what ALEC stands for. The numbers can be encouraging, inspiring – and heaven knows – we need that in ol’ San Diego.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

bob dorn July 23, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Another big problem with local press is, they weren’t able t report what Smilin’ Kevin the Mayor said in his address, this in a town with press that will show up to catch him boarding a bus to show he’s a man of the people. We haven’t heard yet from local “professional journalists” who among the local Dems and Republicans are attending the secret sessions ALEC is holding with the suits and briefcases loaded with dollars. Will our “professional journalists” ask Kevin Faulconer what he said? Will we learn if San Diego area State Assembly members like Brian Jones and Brian Maienschein and Marie Waldron, and State Senators Patricia Bates and Joel Anderson were in attendance at the Marriot Grand meeting with lobbyists and other boodlers.
What? You’ve never heard of them? Well, ALEC has; they’re Republicans.


Frank Gormlie July 24, 2015 at 7:11 pm

bob – You hit it. Sounds like we need to hire you to cover some of these incendiary moments. We can give you a free subscription in return.


Dave Rice July 23, 2015 at 9:37 pm

I did indeed count a few more than 1100 that took place in the march – plus I checked back at the rally site and found at least another 100 people that stayed behind. I’m assuming from coverage by Doug Porter and others who seemed to arrive at the Hyatt before the group that there were more people that went straight to the protest and skipped the rally. Add more people who trickled in as the protest was ongoing and I’d say you’re probably pretty spot-on with 1500 if not a scoche conservative, Frank.

Regardless, I also went with “in excess of 1000” in my own coverage, which somehow seems to still be awaiting publication (our “editordude” is out of the office and whoever’s filling in may not be as familiar with our urgency sorting method, I’m guessing)…


Marc Snelling July 24, 2015 at 10:11 am

Up to their old tricks? When have they ever reports accurately on demonstration numbers. Every action I’ve been involved with has either been ignored or downplayed by the UT. They only downplay the numbers when it is too big for them to ignore.


Frank Gormlie July 24, 2015 at 11:49 am

Ya got that right. There was hope with the new sale to the LA Times company that things would be different. In some respects they are – but not in this respect – the underestimation of dissent in this silver city.


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