Santa Rosa city leaders by now must be wishing they hadn't blinked when they first gave Occupy  campers an inch, allowing them to pitch tents in violation of the city's ordinance. It's going to be very hard to put the genie back in the bottle. Just ask officials in New York City, who last week removed campers from Zuccotti Park, or police in Oakland.

No one, especially this newspaper, would deny people the right to assemble and express their views. But one does not have the right to camp. The longer this goes on, the greater safety and sanitation concerns become. Meanwhile, the city of Santa Rosa and taxpayers have a significant liability exposure if something bad happens, which no one wants.

Most important is that the protesters' grievances about the economy are being drowned out by the camp itself. The camp and how to manage it have become a distraction from the real issue -- which we believe is to get serious about creating more education, jobs and economic opportunity for everyone.

That is something on which all can agree and a discussion we welcome.