Sunday, February 12, 2017

Protesters: The Out-of-State Claim

In the wake of the 2016 election and 2017 inauguration, we have seen hundreds of protests. These have ranged in size from millions on January 21st with the Women's March on Washington to many smaller local events targeting specific issues. As these protests, rallies, and marches have continued, some have made spurious claims about who is involved in the protests. I plan to take a bit of time to analyze these claims. In this post, I address the claim that protesters are sent in from out of state.

Getting There

Suppose, for a moment, that protesters are sent in from out of state to make protests appear larger. One recent protest in the central North Carolina area was the Moral March on Raleigh which took place on February 11th. While some estimate that 80,000 people attended, other news organizations are simply citing "thousands." (ABC11, WRAL) Let's take the conservative estimate of 10,000 attendees.

Charter Bus
Now, these people had to be brought in somehow. How do you transport 10,000 people? Buses would be one of the most cost effective ways to transport large volumes of people. Now, to get a quote for the price of a charter bus, we need to know where they're going to start from. Washington, D.C. is one of the closest liberal havens to central North Carolina so seems a good starting point. There are probably at least 10,000 liberals in the D.C. area, right? Right. 

Okay, now that we know where we're coming from, we can start to price out this trip. has a pretty easy interface that doesn't ask us too many questions so lets start there. To cut down on costs, we're going to say "No" to hotels, attractions, and restaurants.
Our list of results is pretty reasonable and starts with a pretty good bet. A 56 seat charter bus for only $1,200 per day plus $3.99 per mile! A little farther on is an executive bus for $1,900 but there's no need to go overboard here. There's only 7 of them but maybe other services have similar buses available. Here's hoping, anyway.

Okay - so just for the bus service we'll need... how many? And how many miles? Google Maps gives us a rough estimate of 278 miles from D.C. to Raleigh and a travel time of a little over 4 hours. Let's do some math.

Good, that's 179 buses. Now, assuming just a one day rental, we'll have to pick everyone up around 4 AM to make the 8:30 start time and then we'll leave when the march ends at noon and be back in time for dinner. That's reasonable, right? What will the cost be just for the massive fleet of buses?

Wow - okay. We're talking over half a million just for transportation for one march. And if there were only twenty five such protests each weekend for the past four weekends since the inauguration we're talking 100 protests which would be sixty-one million dollars on transportation.

Let them eat... something?

Certainly people wouldn't come from out of state, traveling and marching and traveling again for twelve hours straight without at least something to eat and perhaps drink. Let's assume that they all bring along their own water bottles so the latter is free. But food? Well, I don't know about you but over the course of twelve hours of activity I usually have three meals. Let's skimp and just give them two. We can even go super cheap and try to feed them for, say $2 each for each meal if we get some crap in bulk.

Okay, and recall this is just one protest out of approximately a hundred so we're talking another four million dollars. This total of $65 million is sounding kind of massive, and we haven't even talked about paying the protesters. Maybe they'll work just for the crappy food? Let's leave it at that for now.


We have many problems already, though. First, where do you get a fleet of 179 buses? Second, how to you get them nearly 300 miles from DC to NC without drawing too much attention either way? Third, where do you park all those 45 foot long buses so someone won't get a picture of them to post all over social media? Hint - none of this can be done. Clearly, these protesters did not come from out of state given the prohibitive cost and lack of any evidence of a tremendous bus fleet.

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