Counting the Heads at Mayor’s Saturday Rally

One veteran political consultant said h/she never would have promised 10,000 people for an outdoor weekend event at City Hall without spectacular “programming,” like a fireworks show, to attract a crowd. But for days, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, basking in the national spotlight for his anti-domestic violence crusade, had talked up the 10,000 number for his rally denouncing abuse on Saturday. And, even though Saturday morning started out cold and wet, the mayor wound up drawing a decent crowd to Marilla Street—even if it was short of the target in numbers. But, how short was it?

The initial stories, including on the websites of several TV stations, reported that “hundreds” had shown up for the rally. By early afternoon, however, those figures had been changed in most cases to read “thousands.” On Sunday, the DMN reported 5,000 attending.

Addressing these discrepancies, commenter Dede Caplett wrote on several websites: “LOL. … Maybe 100 people were there total, including staff.” While Dede may have lowballed things, the Observer‘s Anna Merlan commented on Unfair Park that she had eyeballed the crowd and put it (unscientifically) at “a couple thousand.”

So, who came up with the 5,000 figure?

Twice on Monday morning, at separate times, two different Dallas Police Department spokesmen told us that the DPD had not made an official estimate of the crowd, since the rally was not a DPD event.

Then, around the time of our second DPD call, the mayor’s chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, relayed an email saying “DPD estimated 5-6K at rally on Saturday.”

A few hours later, one of the two DPD spokesman called us back to report: “We estimated it at 5,000.”

Meantime, the Dallas Independent School District had pledged to transport 1,000 of its male students to the rally on buses. But according to a DISD spokeswoman, a total of 200 DISD students—plus 100 students from a private religious school—actually were transported to the rally, perhaps owing to the bad weather or to other, conflicting events.