A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

21 January 2018 — 1408 mst

Kalispell women’s rally drew 450–500

That range is based on a count of heads in a high resolution panoramic image I made of the crowd at 1230 MST, just before the speechifying began.


I shot the panorama’s images from the steps of the speaker’s pavilion in Depot Park. You can download the 10,000-pixel-wide image (2 MB) if you’d like to make your own count.

I divided the panorama into ten sectors, and counted the heads in each sector at 200 percent magnification. My sum of sectors = 452, which I rounded to 450.

People on and behind the pavilion are not in the panorama. And in the panorama, some people are behind trees or are not visible because they’re behind someone else. My count of 450 probably is low, which is why I’m reporting a range, 450–500, not a single number.

On the event’s Facebook page Saturday morning, 379 persons said they were attending, and over 600 said they were interested in attending.

If you do download the high resolution image and do your own count, please send me your sector by sector results so that we can refine the count.


Both the Missoulian and the Missoula Current report that thousands participated in Missoula’s women’s march, but neither newspaper cites a source for its estimate. Why they didn’t do as I did and count heads in a panoramic image of the event at its peak is a puzzle.

At BigSkyWords, Greg Strandberg, who admits he arrived as the event was disbanding, wrote:

The Facebook event page for the 2018 Women’s March in Missoula lists 893 people as going, with another 786 interested.

I’d say around 1,000 probably showed up at the height of the event.

He illustrated his essay with several photographs.

Strandberg’s estimate has outraged some progressives, especially some writing under pseudonyms on Twitter, but none of his critics has produced a better sourced estimate.


In Bozeman, the Chronicle reported that the march’s organizers had counted 1,300. That number, also reported as a count, was independently posted on Twitter. In its caption for a photograph of the event, the Chronicle said "More than 1,000 demonstrators…" marched, without citing a source.


The Helena Independent Record reported 2,000 attended Helena’s women’s march, but did not cite a source for its estimate. A year ago, the organizers of the statewide March in Helena claimed 10,000 attended, a claim I found not altogether convincing.

Great Falls

According to the Great Falls Tribune:

In Great Falls, nearly 300 people attended the Rise Together for Democracy observance that started in Gibson Park and ended at the YWCA, although Gerry Jennings of Great Falls Rising, which cosponsored the event along with the YWCA, said she heard crowd estimates as high as 1,000.

Thus, for Great Falls we have the GFT’s estimate of 300, based on unreported methodology, and from the event’s organizers, not a group likely to lowball the number, a hearsay estimate of 1,000 based on unreported methodology. I suspect the GFT’s number is closest to the truth.


According to the Billings Gazette, Montana’s largest city, which is pretty small as cities go, “…the number of marchers spanned three blocks.” The Gazette’s reported “hundreds” marched, but neither provided greater precision nor cited the basis for its estimate.

Counting crowds

Following last year’s women's marches, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver found that the march organizers' estimates of crowd size were approximately 40 percent larger than independent estimates. Silver’s finding was not surprising. Neither was it well received. With crowd counts go bragging rights, which is why Donald Trump was outraged by reports his inaugural crowd was smaller than Barack Obama’s, why Louis Farrakhan went into high dudgeon (and to Congress) when the National Park Service estimated that only 400,000 attended his Million Man March, and why the organizers of Seattle’s 2017 women’s march were miffed when the Seattle Times reported 120,000 marchers instead of the 200,000 claimed by the organizers.

Some rally and march organizers do want an honest, accurate, count. But others want a large number that can’t be disputed. For these people, The Truth, as revealed to them by their eyes and their eyes only, matters more than the facts. Louis Farrakhan was so incensed that he intimidated the federal bureaucracy, arguing that its counting methodology was flawed, and convinced Congress to forbid the NPS from releasing crowd counts. That was a sorry day for science and democracy.

Crowds can be counted, and as Curbed reports, the methods for counting are better and better. If Montana’s news media really want to report accurate, independent, crowd counts, the resources for obtaining them are widely available, especially in university and college communities such as Missoula and Bozeman.