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End the occupation; It has been a remarkable event, but it's time to restore Niagara Square

Occupy Buffalo's days should be numbered at Niagara Square.

Its occupants should proudly pack up their tents and clear out with the knowledge that while "Mission Accomplished" may never be within reach -- the nation's problems are not that easily resolved -- it's time to deliver the message in a different way that includes volunteering with community groups and in the offices of those politicians who share a belief in their issues.

But it's time. After 4 1/2 months of sleeping, eating and breathing a movement that has swept the nation about worsening inequity and corporate greed -- and doing so peacefully and effectively -- it's time to un-Occupy Niagara Square and return it to Buffalo.

The clock could strike "midnight" for the occupiers by Wednesday, when an agreement with the city allowing the encampment expires.

Mayor Byron W. Brown has set a sterling example for his colleagues across the nation in how he has handled the protesters. Instead of sending out police to pepper spray them, as has been the case in other cities, he has defended their right to camp at Niagara Square. Police still wave to the occupiers, and firefighters honk their truck horns in support.

Here in Buffalo, there have been no arrests in Niagara Square and only one when a splinter group set up a satellite camp in Lafayette Square. Contrast that to the now-infamous clashes since Occupy Wall Street launched in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17. Since then, that occupation and others, including Los Angeles; Atlanta; Boston; Oakland, Calif.; and Albany, have been the scenes of crackdowns and arrests.

While not unanimous in agreement, the Common Council waived a $500 permit fee for the Buffalo group allowing it to scratch off that item of concern. This blue-collar town has supported the protesters with about $10,000 in donations from unions, organizations, churches, individuals and fundraisers, according to a ledger.

The movement has served an important purpose in street-level lobbying and has brought to the forefront numerous issues facing the "99 percent."

Locally, protesters have taken on issues such as proposed bus route reductions and banks' roles in home foreclosures, and made clear their opposition to hydraulic fracturing. The list goes on and it will continue to go on with time.

Just how long that time should last outside City Hall is the question. The number of tents has dwindled to 19 from 45, with 10 to 15 people in sleeping bags on a given weekday.

The occupiers want to stay. It's likely a sentiment shared by those in remaining encampments in Syracuse; Cleveland; Kansas City; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Harrisburg, Pa.

Indeed, many of the Occupy camps were reportedly closed across the country last fall and early winter. The fact that Occupy Buffalo remains should be of little surprise given the amount of cooperation from the mayor, the Council and members of the movement. And while we don't agree with Common Council President Richard A. Fontana's assessment about it being an experiment, he is right that it's time to "clean up the square."