Many Americans are sympathetic to the sentiments expressed by the Occupy Wall Street movement, but the group’s chief tactic — encampments in U.S. cities — has outlived its usefulness.

The Occupy movement in the U.S. began in September in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district to protest income inequality, unemployment, greed and the disproportionate influence of money in U.S. politics.

Since then, it has spread to major cities across the country, including Portland and Augusta.

While the group has been either unwilling or unable to turn that sentiment into a specific set of demands, the resentment it represents is shared by a sizable slice of the American public.

Opinion polls have varied, but a Nov. 3 Quinnipiac University survey found that 30 percent of American voters viewed the movement favorably, 30 percent unfavorably and 39 percent had no opinion.

Those numbers are roughly similar to the support enjoyed by the tea party movement, a successful conservative and libertarian grassroots movement that emerged in 2009 and had a significant effect on the 2010 Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some on the left had hoped that the Occupy movement would serve as a liberal counterbalance to the tea party.

But, while Occupy has drawn attention to its issues, its image has been marred by its insistence on inhabiting public spaces. The encampments have also become a magnet for homeless people, petty criminals and the mentally ill.

Television images of the movement has featured bizarre behavior, crime, unsanitary conditions and confrontations with police.

Maine cities have responded with tolerance and patience, but even the encampments here have been plagued by crimes and violations of health and safety codes.

The Portland group is working with the city to obtain a six-month permit to occupy Lincoln Park. In Augusta, a court hearing has been scheduled on attempts by Capitol Police to clear a camp on state property.

All of the groups would do well to examine the way the tea party grew from a fringe group to a political force.

Tea party organizers were able to use traditional and social media to draw tens of thousands of people to increasingly large rallies across the country. They staged a national conference and formulated a 10-point “Contract from America.”

Tea party candidates defeated established Republicans in eight state primaries and 138 of the 2010 candidates for Congress claimed tea party support. About 32 percent of tea party candidates won office, including Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which tilted the balance of power in the Senate and nearly doomed health care reform.

The U.S. Constitution clearly guarantees Americans the right to assemble and the right of free speech. As a country, we bend over backward to protect those rights.

But the Constitution doesn’t guarantee people the right to live wherever they want.

The Occupy movement needs to pull up stakes and move on to the next stage, working within the Democratic process to rally its forces, elect candidates and right the wrongs it has identified in our society.

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