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I am kind of confused about the meaning of the noun "numbers" in this piece:

Some anxiety that had built around the protests ahead of Wednesday, a holiday to celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China, eased as the day wore on and protests in many parts of Hong Kong took on a festive tone, with some demonstrators offering free haircuts and massages. As on other days, numbers shrank in the midday heat and swelled again as evening approached.

I've already checked dictionaries, but I cannot quite pinpoint the correct definition of "numbers" to use.

  • "numbers" here refers to "the number of people". In these usages "numbers" would be understood as more than one (demonstrator). – user3169 Oct 4 '14 at 20:11
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According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of "number" is "a person who is identified by a number and not treated in a personal or friendly way". Thus "numbers" can mean, among other things, "group of people that are related to impersonally", or just "many individuals in a group".

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Usually in news-style articles you see this, the subject is implied. I found this at dictionary.com

10. numbers.

a considerable amount or quantity; many:

Numbers flocked to the city to see the parade.

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