How many really turned up at Lismore's anti-gas rally?
WITH crowd estimates at Saturday's gasfields free rally varying wildly, The Northern Star decided to find out from those experienced in counting crowds how exactly it's done.
It's not an exact science, would you believe.
According to Richmond Local Area Command Inspector Bill McKenna, who was at Saturday's rally, said the police number of 5000 was a "very, very rough estimate".
"The difficulty of counting crowds like that is it's not a defined environment, like a sports ground," Inspector McKenna said.
"With something like this it's only an approximation.
"There is no science to it at all."
Probably the tried and true method was the density estimate, which involved counting the number of people in a given area, then counting the number of those areas taken up by people.
The police also relied on rough comparisons to Lismore's previous big rally, the March in March, to balance their figures.
Over at the Gasfields Free organisation a couple of other methods were used.
Organiser Elly Bird said that a team of five people counted at different points along the march and then averaged out the totals.
"We used a lot of different methods, we had clickers, people doing density estimations, and even used a guy with experience in counting cattle," she said.
The clicker method sounded good but wasn't actually very practical.
"It was difficult for them to keep up, there was so many people," she said.
"The clickers had pretty tired hands."
Individual estimates varied from 5,000, to up to 10,000 - but the higher figures were mainly derived from "rumour and excitement", Ms Bird said.
"We put it at around 8000.
"It is an imperfect science... there's so many people and how do you go about counting them."
Ms Bird added that the rally was definitely bigger than the March in March, which police also estimated at 5000.
At one stage, the police even had to hold up the head of the march so the giant caterpillar didn't run into itself on the round trip and cause congestion and chaos.
Taking into account regional population percentages, it equated to at least a 100,000-strong march in Sydney.