We are, of course, in favor of free speech, but a recent handful of protests in the Midcoast targeting Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin are unnecessarily exaggerated.

Organizers of local protests, Maine Indivisible, also have staged protests and events in other parts of the state, commonly “empty chair” meetings during which attendees speak to an empty chair as if it were their state senator or representative.

These types of protests are designed to grab attention, and they do. However, some of the points being made by organizers should be considered with a grain of salt. For example, it is unclear why a Collins spokeswoman who cites an offer of a video conference would receive no response from organizers of a Rockland empty chair event. If the group truly wanted an audience with Collins, a video conference should have been sufficient. Instead, the group proceeded with addressing an empty chair.

We've editorialized — and criticized — Poliquin's silence prior to major votes and we continue to hold that stance. However, a recent protest in Belfast with people marching the streets with binoculars and signs, asking pedestrians and places of business if anyone has seen Poliquin, was mostly a public show with no real point or stance.

We also can't help but notice both the Rockland and Belfast events targeted only Republicans. This is no coincidence. The national Indivisible Project guide offers tips to "resist Trump's agenda" and outlines a "Tea Party-inspired strategy." The nonprofit founders write:

"We’d seen a model for success for how local activism can affect (sic) real change in Congress. If the Tea Party was able to take on a historically popular President Obama with a Democratic supermajority to slow and sometimes defeat his federal agenda, we can surely take on Donald Trump and the members of Congress who would do his bidding."

Suggested tactics include focusing on members of Congress through town halls, other public events, district office visits and mass calls. As to how to conduct oneself at a town hall meeting, the Indivisible Guide recommends, "Make them listen to you, and report out when they don't."

For visiting a representative's district office, the guide suggests a similarly fated approach. "Go there. Demand a meeting with the (member of Congress). Report to the world if they refuse to listen."

If the goal is to get attention, these tactics will work, though most likely at the expense of democratic institutions that someone will want when the dust settles. If the goal is actually to meet with politicians at a town hall meeting, protesters need to consider politicians' schedules. A calendar listing Maine Resistance events shows something almost every day. Of note, two town hall meetings listed for Poliquin — which he did not attend, according to Belfast protesters — were scheduled on two consecutive evenings.

Maine politicians based in Washington, D.C., make an effort to return to their home state on a regular basis and to reach out to constituents. Scheduling or demanding a meeting on specific terms, dates and times is not the best way to convey an important message. Further, common courtesy suggests that when one party (in the generic sense) wishes to meet with another party, the first step is to compare calendars and come up with a date and time convenient to both.

Members of our Maine congressional delegation have excellent websites, where meetings can be requested — the key word here is “requested,” which does not mean guaranteed. There are public phone numbers and email addresses readily available. Some are active on social media, posting upcoming public events.

The point? There are plenty of ways to reach out to local politicians for serious discourse and none of them requires an empty chair — no matter how attractive Clint Eastwood's 2012 idea might seem.