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Chain Gang - Teacher Notes

Chain Gang

Human chains are a form of protest in which demonstrators link their arms in a show of solidarity.

Not surprisingly, the organisers usually report higher numbers than do the authorities.

Below are some notable chains and the numbers claimed.

Check each of the claims - do you believe them?

Say why or why not !

Year Event Location Attendance Claims Size
1997 XII World Youth Day, 1997 Paris 400,000 A 36 km ring surrounding Paris
2004 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally Taiwan: from Keelung to Eluanbi

Just over 1,000,000 according to authorities

over 2,000,000 according to organisers

500 kilometres (300 miles)
2004 Israeli Chain


Gush Katif to the Western Wall, Jerusalem

130,000(according to police)

200,000(according to organisers)

90 kilometres
2004 Bangladesh Teknaf to Tentulia Over 5,000,000


(650 miles)

Organise the pupils to make a small chain to get an idea of a human chain and how many people it takes to cover a certain distance, if they stretch out as far as possible, and squeeze up as much as possible.

You might choose to split the class into groups and get each group to assess different claims. Some claims are easier to assess than others - you might choose to allocate groups accordingly.

XII World Youth Day, 1997 (Easy)

For 400,000 people, a 36 km chain would mean 400 people in a 36 metre chain, 100 people in 9 metres or about 10 people per metre. This means each person would need to be about 10cm wide. It would be impossible for 400,000 people to stand side-by-side in a 36 km chain.

228 Hand-in-Hand Rally (Harder)

1,000,000 people in a 500 km chain would mean 1000 people in a 500 metre chain, or two people per metre. This sounds quite plausible as each person would have about half a metre space. It might be a bit of a tight squeeze for some, but it seems quite possible. The demonstration organisers' claim of 2,000,000 would only allow half that space, i.e. 25cm each. This is not enough room and it is unlikely that 2,000,000 took part in the chain.

Israeli Chain (Hardest)

130,000 people in a 90km chain would mean 130 people in a 90 metre chain, this would allow about 2/3 of a metre or about 70cm per person, this seems to be plenty of room and the claims of the police are quite plausible. The organisers' claim of 200,000 would mean about 200 people in a 90 metre chain which is just under 1/2 a metre each. This also seems plausible though it would be quite a squeeze. It would seem that the Police claim and the organisers' claim mark the minimum and, maximum boundaries of the number of people who might have been involved in the Israeli Chain.

Bangladesh (Easy)

5,000,000 people in 1050km would mean about 5000 people in a 1050 metre chain or about 5 people per metre, This allows each person about 20cm. It would be impossible to fit 5 people into a 1 metre chain.

The Bangladesh Chain is the official Guinness Book of Records claim for the longest human chain.