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Monday, July 18, 2011

Tripoli Green Square Reality Check

After a five day battle it is beginning to look like the rebels have taken the oil town of Brega but it has been at a high cost, maybe 13 dead and more than 300 wounded.

As the battle for control of Libya rages on the battlefields another important battle has taken place in the realm of the media for the claim of legitimacy based on popular support among the Libyan people.

In this realm, the centerpiece of Qaddafi's claims to popular support has been a series of mass rallies in Tripoli on June 17th, July 1st and July 8th. In each of these occasions the pro-Qaddafi folks have stated that 1.7 million Libyans rallied for Qaddafi in Tripoli's Green Square. For example:
Pro-Qaddafi Rally Draws 1.7 million: 1/4 of the Population
Worker's World Party reported:
rallies in Libya against the bombing, which reportedly had 1.7 million people in attendance.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation wrote:
July 1 as many as a million rallied in Tripoli against NATO bombing. This is in a nation of only 6 million people.
Instead, on July 1st, over a million Libyans, around one third of the Libyan population, were in Green Square and the surrounding streets, to hear Muammar Qaddafi speak and to rally against NATO.

Chinese media put the number at 1.7 million and Intifada – Voice of Palestine website called it ‘the largest demonstration ever in world history’. The crowd chanted over and over again ‘We want Qaddafi’ while unveiling a green flag 6 kilometers long.
TRIPOLI. Friday of July 1, 2011 like many other Fridays has seen huge rallies in Tripoli’s Green Square.

It’s very hard to get an accurate number of the mass of people that have attended these rallies. Estimates have placed the size of the July 1st rally in Green Square at one million people. [China reports 1.7 million.]
Note that the [China reports] link links to the Perreira piece above not to any Chinese source. That source is not linked or defined by anybody and remains a mystery. That's how this information war is played by the pro-Qaddafi people. Assertions without sources.

Now others reporting on these pro-Qaddafi protests have estimated much lower numbers for these crowds, in the range of 10,000 to 30,000. It has also been said that the majority of those in attendance had some relation to Qaddafi security forces, approximately 10% of the Libya population has such an association. It threatened if they failed to show up.

So there have been a lot of questions about the accuracy of these reports.

I got to wondering if it was even possible for 1.7 million people "the world's largest demonstration" to fit in Tripoli's Green Square and as it turns out it's not.

The world's biggest city square is Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, Iran and is almost 600,000 sq. meters in size. The second biggest is the more famous Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China and measures more than 440,000 square meters. Tripoli's Green Square isn't even on the list.

In fact I couldn't find a size for Tripoli's Green Square listed anywhere. I had to get a map and do the math myself. Thank Google:

Green Square is roughly 646 meters long by 238 meters wide. Taking into account all the adjacent streets and odd bits like the spear of land on the right and the rectangle on the bottom I come up with an estimated size for the Green Square area of just 205,065 sq. meters.

205 thousand square meters would appear to be an impossible fit for 1.7 million people

So how many people can you fit into 205,000 sq. meters?

This authoritative study calls anything over 2 people per sq. meter "jammed," this report's densest category.

One study about a large rally in 2008 makes the following observation:
Crowd density estimates stem from the fact that people usually occupy around a quarter of a square meter in a very crowded space. This translates to around four (4) persons in a square meter. Lower crowd density means a larger space between each person. We should note that crowd density is usually not uniform, except in very crowded areas, and will taper off from the central hub of activity in the mobilization.
While How to Estimate Crowd Density says:
"Loose crowds" are those in which attendees stand an arm's length from one another, and give each person about 10 square feet of space. "Tight crowds" stand less than an arm's length from one another and provide about 4.5 square feet for each attendee, while a "mob crowd" is one that has no space between attendees and gives each only 2.5 square feet.

Read more: How to Estimate Crowd Density | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_7824574_estimate-crowd-density.html#ixzz1SWcDKvui
So using the most dense "mob crowd" of 2.5 sq. ft or .23 sq. m. per person it would appear that Tripoli's Green Square could support a rally of at most 891 thousands people. The estimates of as many as 1.7 million Qaddafi supporters in Green Square defy the possible.

Besides which, Green Square just hasn't been that crowded for these rallies. Look at the closeup below. This is Green Square on July 1, 2011. Notice the spacing between the people and few seem to be out in the street beyond the square. Notice also the camera crane that some on the DocuLink filmmaker list have speculated about. Makes it look rather more like a movie set than a rally doesn't it? Look at all the extras standing around waiting for the cue. And there's that French flag again! Since France has been first among the NATO countries in attacking Qaddafi, a French flag is the last thing you'd expect to see at a Qaddafi rally. What's it doing there?

Compare Tripoli's Green Square to the Washington Mall

In the United States, the national mall in Washington, DC is renown for it massive political rallies. In 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a rally there that was generally considered to be about a quarter million people. This is what a quarter million people looks like. What you don't see is all the people on the sides under the trees and crowds all the way down to Washington Monument at the other end.

Here we superimposed Tripoli's Green Square over the Washington Mall, being careful to maintain the scale exactly. The red dot marks the location of the Washington Monument. If the Washington Mall gets crowded with 250,000 people how could Green Square hold 6 or 7 times as many people?

It simply didn't happen and all those that say that Qaddafi held a rally in Tripoli with over a million supporters in Green Square are selling an elaborate lie in the hopes of saving a tyrant and a mass murderer from his certain fate.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

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