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Democracy at work Occupy protesters may lack firm goals, but just exercising rights is worthwhile

Buffalo is being "occupied," and it's an example of democracy at work.

About 50 Occupy Buffalo demonstrators have camped out in Niagara Square every night for more than two weeks, part of the national protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street.

The protesters are exercising their rights of free speech and assembly. The assemblage itself epitomizes the freedoms that make this country great.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has swept across the nation and into Europe seemingly out of nowhere, and all without demonstrators ever articulating a set of goals.

The movement is more a feeling of dissatisfaction with the state of an economy that has yet to recover from the recession. Unemployment remains high as businesses are reluctant to hire despite sitting on huge reserves of cash. Families are struggling to pay bills, find adequate health insurance and keep up mortgage payments on houses that in many cases are worth far less than they were three years ago.

Occupy Wall Street pledges no allegiance to any party, although Democrats such as President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have weighed in with supportive comments and House Republican Leader Eric Cantor has called the protesters a "mob." The protesters bristle when characterized as the Democrats' version of the tea party.

Whether one agrees with their stance as representatives of "the other 99 percent," it's hard not to respect their choice of peaceful action.

In the City of Good Neighbors, the encampment of 36 tents on the eastern side of Niagara Square has taken place, so far, without incident. The mayor's spokesman was even quoted in The News saying that Occupy Buffalo representatives have cooperated with officials from the city's Special Events Division.

We like how those individuals exercising their democratic right to voice their indignation have done so with respect, and have received the same from city officials. Both groups are to be congratulated for staying positive in what could be a prolonged effort.

The same cannot be said in other parts of the country where similar protests are taking place.

About 130 demonstrators of the Occupy Chicago movement in a downtown park were arrested last Sunday -- the second straight weekend that arrests had been made in the park -- and another nearly dozen arrests were reported in the Occupy Cincinnati protests. And today police began clearing protesters from the plaza in front of Oakland's City Hall.

It's difficult to say where the Occupy movement will go, or whether the nation's leaders will act on any of the complaints. But the simple fact that these complaints are being aired is a welcome show of our commitment to democracy.

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