In the end, according to several observers, the overall attendance was closer to 2,000. Think Progress — which is published by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress — estimated there were “hundreds of activists” on the Mall for the event, which started early Friday.
According to Moral Action on Climate Justice’s head Lise Van Susteren, crowds were deterred by media reports and government warnings that downtown traffic would be snarled by road closures related to the pope’s visit.
“Everybody was saying it was going to be traffic armageddon,” she said in an interview Friday. “Traffic armageddon was the tornado.”
But Van Susteren said the fact that 100 journalists were credentialed for the event, and disparate groups including evangelical and Black Lives Matter activists came together on stage is what matters.
“It’s not how many people are on the ground, really. That’s like how many people come to my birthday, party,” she said. “The issue is people who do count are there.”
“The point is to bring in evangelicals” into the climate debate, Van Susteren added. “You’ve got to show it’s a big tent.”
Van Susteren declined to disclose the total cost of the rally, which was shared among several environmental groups, but said the Park Service required organizers pay for a range of costs on the assumption that nearly 200,000 people would come. That included one portable toilet for every 300 people, multiple jumbotrons, security fees and insurance.