... like the 700 Continental and United pilots. They'd get more media coverage then the straggly, scraggly folks that predominate in the Occupy Wall Street protest.
A shorter, smaller, niftier protest seems bigger, then, because of the projection into the media. The larger, longer, freer protest will get attention, however, if the media is not on its side.
If that general rule is true, it suggests that protests ought to be well organized. There's a lot of debate at the link about the extent to which the Occupy Wall Street protesters deserve criticism for lack of organization.
I think a big, spontaneous, passionate protest can be effective, but not when it continues day after day. (My opinion is informed by observation of the Wisconsin protests over the many weeks and months.) At some point, people outside of the protests resent the disruption of the flow of ordinary life. If the continuing protest goes well and gathers steam, these outsiders to the protest worry about disorder and chaos.
If a continuing protest declines — and it will ultimately have to decline, unless the authorities break it up — then during the period of decline, the people left in the protest are, more and more, the extremists, the deranged, and the emotionally needy. Few onlookers identify with these people.