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Making it count.

Activists can't agree on how many people actually attended the march There's never been a march on Washington that didn't end with a debate over attendance--and the Millennium March was no exception, But while in years past gays and lesbians fought government officials for a more accurate tally, this year the debate is among gay people themselves,

The numbers game started early April 30, when feminist Eleanor Smeal took the rally's podium and suggested that there were at least 750,000 people gathered, Several other speakers ran with Smeal's sum, although Washington, D,C., mayor Anthony Williams told the crowd that district police estimated its size to be closer to 310,000.

Then the Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process, a group of gay activists critical of plans for the march since they were first announced, issued a statement May 1 saying that at most only 125,000 people attended the event, The low turnout, the group said, proved that march organizers failed "to involve and mobilize the grassroots activists" and "to be accountable to the community it claimed to represent,"

Unlike with previous marches, there will be no official count for the Millennium March, The National Park Service stopped making such tallies after controversies over counts at the Million Man March and other events, Nevertheless, march executive director Dianne Hardy-Garcia says she is confident that there were at least 700,000 people at the April 30 rally, "The Mall was full from the stage to 14th Street," Hardy-Garcia says, "indicating [based on previous Park Service estimates] that there were between 700,000 and 800,000," In addition, "we filled Pennsylvania Avenue," she says, referring to the street festival, which was at capacity both Saturday and Sunday,

As for the Ad Hoc Committee and its much more meager estimate, "They should be applauding the people who had the courage and gumption to march on Washington," the weary Hardy-Garcia says, "I know I certainly would be applauding them if they had a march that was as well-attended as this one."
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Article Details
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Author:Barrett, Jon
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 6, 2000
Previous Article:Wish you'd been here.

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