A few dozen protesters -- down from several hundred in mid-September -- are camping in Zuccotti Park, a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, as part of the so-called "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations.
Americans have a right to peacefully assemble and seek a redress of grievances. Police actions should be measured to protect health and safety without limiting political protest.
Of course, there's some evidence the protesters are actually trying to get themselves arrested or pepper-sprayed to draw more attention to their cause. Saturday's arrests "thrust the once-dwindling demonstrations into the national spotlight," BusinessWeek reports. Provoking police is part of protesters' strategy to get noticed, says Michael Heaney, political science professor at the University of Michigan.
All of which begs the obvious question: What precisely is the grievance, here?
As events began in Manhattan, organizers said they aimed to get President Obama to establish a commission to end "the influence money has over our representatives in Washington," according to the website of Vancouver-based Adbusters. On the ground, protesters have been less unified, with demands that range from increasing taxes on Wall Street and the wealthy to ending global warming. Labor groups say they support the protests.
"You have people talking about ending global capitalism, and that doesn't poll well," comments David Meyer, author of "The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America."
On placards and in chants, protesters cite frustrations with a financial industry that received taxpayer bailouts while contributing to an economy where unemployment remains above 9 percent. Fine. But talk about ending "greed" -- as though no one should seek pay or profit, in some weird amalgam of Mother Teresa and "Star Trek" -- makes it appear unlikely the protesters' remedies would address reality.
End "the influence money has over our representatives in Washington," when many a politician now needs to raise millions of dollars for each election cycle?
Separating bank and state has been a legitimate political goal since the administration of Andrew Jackson. But as John Lennon once said, "We'd all love to see the plan."