Just how many people were at the Matraimov rally in Osh?
On February 28, a rally was held near the Osh mayor’s office in support of Raimbek Matraimov, the former deputy chairman of the State Customs Service at the center of ongoing international investigative news reports into an international smuggling operation. The rally also targeted Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) which, alongside the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Kloop.kg, has been conducting the investigation.
There have been competing claims concerning the amount of participants in the rally, so the editorial staff at Factcheck.kg has decided to make an approximate calculation. We have used a formula for determining crowd densities first developed by Herbert Jacobs.
According to Jacobs, whenever there is a crowd of people standing so tightly together such that it is impossible to pass through them, one may reasonably assume a rate of 4.3 people per square meter. The thinner the crowd, the thinner the distribution, such that if one can pass through the crowd, one can assume 2.4 people per square meter, and if it is clear that the participants are standing at arm’s length from each other, then one can assume 1 person per square meter.
Live video evidence from the rally clearly shows that people were standing at more than an arm’s length apart, as there were even empty spaces. Indeed, the videographer walked completely freely through the crowd. One can also see that at a considerable part of the rally space was occupied by rows of chairs prepared for elderly participants, and the distance between these rows was also quite sufficient for a person to pass through freely. It can therefore be surmised that there was one person per square meter.
As for the overall territory of the rally, this was also easy to determine thanks to videographic and photographic evidence, as well as Google Earth. The protesters were located to the right and left of a monument, in a space of approximately 4.5 thousand square meters.
All in all, per Jacobs’ formula, there appears to have been approximately 4.5 thousand people at the rally, all in support of Matraimov.