Sunday, July 15, 2012

Counting Crowds

Japanese hash marks 
It’s an almost indisputable fact that public opposition to the Japanese government’s decision to restart the country’s nuclear reactors continues to grow. The same can’t be said for counting the numbers of no-nukes crusaders who march on the prime minister’s doorstep in what has for many become a weekly pilgrimage. Reported crowd counts for the Friday night anti-nuclear power protests in Tokyo fluctuate wildly. 

Earlier this month the country’s largest English daily, The Japan Times noted that “protest rallies have been gradually been [sic] growing in size ever since they started being held each Friday night since late March. Police reports estimate that the number of protesters this Friday night was at least 10,000, while event organizers later put the estimate at 150,000 people.” 

While many have suggested that both the police and organizers may be inclined to skew the numbers in the direction they desire, the Japanese periodical Alterna suggests a whole other dynamic altogether may be at work behind the crowd calculations. In a July 14 story, Alterna reported that while Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) does estimate the number of people attending the rallies, they don’t make that information publicly available. Wondering where the official police figures so often cited by the media come from, the magazine asked the local police department that has jurisdiction over the area of the city that the prime minister officially calls home. 

The answer Alterna basically got(and this is not a direct quote or translation)was something like: Why should we provide that kind of information when the NPA doesn’t? It’s a good question and leaves me wondering where do they get those official figures if, as Alterna suggests, they don’t officially come from anybody official.

Related posts: The Art of Protesting
               Carried Away

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