Trump overstates inauguration crowd as Women's March appears to draw bigger turnout

There were early signs across the U.S. that the number of people who attended the Women’s March on Washington in Saturday could top those who gathered on Friday to watch U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration. 

But as over a million people around the world protested in solidarity with events in Washington, both the president and his press secretary took aim at the media for “attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration” and claimed a bigger turnout than the available data suggests. 

The U.S. capital’s metro subway stations and train cars were full in many locations, while ridership on Friday was well off the numbers from Barack Obama’s first inaugural.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, 275,000 people had taken trips on the city’s subway system. Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said on Independence Avenue, “The crowd stretches so far that there’s no room left to march.”


A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in U.S. President Donald Trump at 12:01pm, left, on Jan. 20, 2017, and former president Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009. (Reuters)

On inauguration day, 193,000 trips had been taken as of that time, and the rail system opened an hour earlier that day, at 4 a.m.

Saturday’s ridership figures were more than eight times a normal Saturday and busier than most weekdays.

No official estimates of the crowd size at the march were available, but the demonstrators appeared to easily exceed the 200,000 organizers had expected.

Kevin Donahue, Washington’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said on Twitter that organizers of the march increased the turnout estimate to over half a million.

Attempts to minimize inauguration ‘shameful’

During a speech at CIA headquarters, Trump quickly shifted from praise for the CIA to criticism of media coverage of Inauguration day, in an unscripted address that overstated the size of the crowd that gathered on the National Mall as he took the oath of office.

Trump said throngs “went all the way back to the Washington monument,” despite photos and live video showing the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.

Trump Inauguration

People gather on the National Mall, looking from Capitol Hill to the Washington Monument, on Friday for Trump’s inauguration. Trump said throngs ‘went all the way back to the Washington monument,’ despite photos and live video showing the crowd stopping well short of the landmark. (Saul Loeb via AP)

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said, without evidence, in a statement released Saturday that the media intentionally framed pictures and video to make the event look smaller.

“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” the statement read.


Demonstrators arrive via public transportation to take part in the march on Saturday in Washington. As of 11 a.m., ridership for the city’s metro subway exceeded ridership at the same time on inauguration day. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

“These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

Trump said the inauguration crowd looked to be about a million and a half people. The National Park Service doesn’t provide an official estimate, but such a figure is highly dubious. Other events that filled more of the Mall have not drawn a crowd of that size.

Spencer also stated: ”This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”

It is not known how many people watched the ceremony on television around the globe. In the U.S., Nielsen estimates 31 million viewers watched TV coverage.

The 2009 inauguration of Obama, who became the nation’s first African-American president that year, was watched by nearly 38 million viewers, the second-highest number since Nielsen began compiling such figures with Richard Nixon’s 1969 oath of office.

Only Reagan drew a bigger U.S. TV inauguration audience, with nearly 42 million viewers tuning in to see the California Republican sworn in for his first term in 1981. 

Over 1 million protest Trump worldwide

In a global exclamation of defiance and solidarity, more than a million people rallied at women’s marches in the nation’s capital and cities around the world Saturday.

The more than 600 “sister marches” around the world were held in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington. Crowd estimates from police and organizers around the globe added up to more than a million.

Women’s marches around the world1:10

Many of the women came wearing pink, pointy-eared “pussyhats” to mock the new president. Plenty of men joined in, too, contributing to surprising numbers everywhere from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, to Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, London, Prague and Sydney.

A total of 30 marches were planned in Canada. Thousands participated in Toronto and Vancouver.

Women’s March in Toronto4:25

Chicago march cancelled due to big turnout

So many people turned out for the Women’s March in Chicago that organizers cancelled their plans to march through the city’s downtown.

Instead, they extended the rally on the city’s lakefront.

Organizers said far more people than they initially expected gathered at the demonstration in Grant Park along Lake Michigan, and overflow areas were being used.

They said the planned march through downtown Chicago had to be cancelled due to public safety concerns, but that the rally was extended.

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