Local 'Occupy' protesters should keep orderly approach

Local 'Occupy' protesters should keep orderly approach

November 2nd, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

So far, the small number of local demonstrators who align themselves with the Occupy Wall Street movement have rejected the violent, disorderly tactics of all too many in the movement in other parts of the United States.

The local demonstrators have not thrown bottles and stones at police officers. Neither have they created unsanitary conditions at protest sites and then refused police orders to leave those locations at reasonable intervals.

We suspect that most people in our area -- and most Americans in general -- do not share the radical viewpoints held by a lot of the Occupy Wall Street protesters around the country. Many Americans, in fact, are probably unclear about just what the demonstrators' aims are, as they protest "greed" and rail against people whose income is higher than what they consider appropriate.

But whatever we may think about the Occupy Wall Street movement as a whole, we respect the fact that to date, the local protesters have not engaged in illegal or coercive tactics to get their point across.

Have they stated their views forthrightly? Yes, and that is a right properly guaranteed by the Constitution. The idea behind the guarantees of the freedoms of speech and assembly is that individuals or groups may openly but peacefully express their opinions, and those opinions may then compete against others in the marketplace of ideas.

And local authorities say the activists here have not violated the law.

"[T]hus far they have been in compliance with the law," said police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary.

At this writing on Tuesday, the local activists were planning to seek from the Chattanooga City Council later in the evening permits to set up a camp of their own somewhere in the city.

Weary said that given the local activists' reasonable behavior to this point, she does not foresee any problems.

In fact, one of the activists noted in a Times Free Press article: "We're against the violence. We're against the radicalization of things. Instead, we're showing ourselves as mature adults trying to peacefully make change."

That is a commendable approach regardless of their particular views.

Whatever the council may decide, we hope that the local Occupy Wall Street demonstrators will continue their policy of expressing their ideas but doing so legally, according to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.