Fifty thousand? A hundred? A quarter of a million? Half a million? It certainly seemed like a vast army of people, packed into a slow-moving mass making its way up 7th Avenue under a broiling sun.
Beyond the sheer size of the turnout and the variety of people, one of the impressive things about the protest was how good-humored and peaceful it was. Both protesters and police seemed relaxed and unconfrontational. The low-key, ‘hands-off’ approach that the police seemed mostly to have adopted was worlds away from some of the more ‘in-your-face’ tactics that I saw at the anti-war demonstrations last year. The new techniques seemed to work, although the lack of conflict may have disappointed those Republicans who hoped to blame any violent incidents on the Democratic party.
Near Madison Square Garden itself, there were a couple of small knots of counter-protesters, probably numbering no more than twenty in all, most of them holding placards that identified them as conservative Christians or anti-abortion activists. A shirtless man with a mullet happily shouted
“Four more years! Four more years!” as the march went by. A small wedge of police formed a barrier between the small pro- and the vastly larger anti- camps, but no one seemed inclined to come to blows.
The loudest reaction from the crowd came at the sight of a large Fox News ad next to Madison Square Garden, and the large television screens outside Macy’s, also tuned to Fox.
“Change the channel! Change the channel!” chanted the crowd. There was a television camera crew perched over a portico at the Pennsylvania Hotel, but if they were from Fox I doubt they’ll be replaying that particular segment.