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Originally published Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 4:02 PM

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Protest has its place, and its limits

Protest is a cherished American right. But protesters who tried to storm into Gov. Chris Gregoire's office last week stepped over the line and created a safety hazard. And no protester should be defended for assaulting an officer of the law.

PROTEST is a venerable American right. Sleep in the state Capitol building. Camp out on the Capitol grass. Carry signs. Chant, march, yell, make your point.

It is all part of the political process.

But a protest becomes something else when a group of rowdy people storm or try to force their way into the relatively small foyer in the governor's office in Olympia, which creates a safety hazard.

So it was last week when a large group of protesters from the Service Employees International Union, upset about looming budget cuts, gathered outside Gov. Chris Gregoire's office. They had earlier marched around the Capitol campus and demonstrated inside the legislative building.

These protesters wanted to talk to the governor. A lot of people do. A pushing match ensued with State Patrol officers who closed the governor's door and stood guard outside her office to ensure her safety.

If a group wants a meeting with the governor, the best way to accomplish that is to make an appointment. Even so, Gregoire had the decency later in the day to meet with a handful of protesters who wanted to express legitimate concerns about proposed health-care cuts. Nothing wrong with that.

But one protester was arrested for alleged assault for what the State Patrol said was an elbow to the face of one trooper, a kick to the knee of another. Sixteen other individuals were cited and released for disorderly conduct. In a cramped space, with people riled up and pushing from the back, things happen.

The Thursday protest was part of nearly a week of demonstrations in Olympia by groups worried about daunting cuts. The budget reductions are upsetting.

But what SEIU officials miss is this: Their reasonable protest is best conducted without pushing and shoving state troopers and without making a rally feel like a threat to the governor and her staff.

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