SAN DIEGO -- A loosely structured protest movement that formed in New York City three weeks ago to decry the perceived sins of banks, corporations, political elites and other power brokers materialized in the opposite corner of the nation Friday as hundreds of chanting, sign-waving demonstrators took to the streets of San Diego.
Supporters of the social network-driven campaign, which began last month as a rally dubbed "Occupy Wall Street," began gathering at Children's Park in the Marina district in the late afternoon before marching north to Civic Center Plaza at City Hall for a demonstration and sit-in.
There were no immediate reports of unruly behavior or illegal activity among participants, who expressed an array of reasons for becoming involved in the nascent local crusade, christened "Occupy San Diego."
"We are all here for different reasons, but we stand in solidarity against Wall Street," 19-year-old Amanda Santoni remarked while serving free food at the initial meet-up spot at First and Island avenues.
Ray Lutz, an organizer and spokesman for the activists, said the protest would not be short-lived.
"This is going to be going on until we get a response," Lutz said.
Bobby Godinez of National City, who belongs to a union representing boilermakers, expressed hope that the new civil dissent movement could aid in organized labor's longtime fight to improve the lot of average Americans.
"We work very hard, and we deserve fair wages," Godinez said. "It isn't fair that CEOs make record profits while we struggle."
Watching over the growing assembly, San Diego Assistant Police Chief Boyd Long said his department's officers were there in sufficient numbers to defend protesters' First Amendment rights and personal safety while making sure people remained orderly
Long said the crowds seemed well-behaved and generally cheerful as the event was getting under way.
"I don't anticipate any problems," Long said as the demonstration began wending its way toward the municipal government complex on Third Avenue.
By 5:30 p.m., at least 1,000 cheering, slogan-shouting people had paraded to the courtyard next to City Hall. A frequent chanted refrain was "We are the 99 percent," referring to the protesters' contention that most of the nation's wealth is in the hands of about 1 percent of the population.
Among the phrases displayed on the demonstrators' signs were: "End Corporate Rule"; "The Banks Got Bailed Out, and We Got Sold Out"; "CEO Pay vs. Worker Pay in the U.S. -- $475:1"; and "Protect the 99% -- Tax the 1%."
The local rally was staged "in protest of the global financial corruption currently invading politics, media and corporations, exemplified by the recent financial-industry meltdown and subsequent recession," according to the group's website.
The participants would "peacefully occupy" the public courtyard indefinitely, or until they got desired action from "all levels of government, including the city and county of San Diego, the state of California, the federal government and ... private and public banks and corporations," the announcement stated.
However, the group agreed to yield the plaza this evening to make way for an observance of Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest and most somber day, that previously had been scheduled for Friday night and Saturday morning. Following those services, Occupy San Diego participants would return to the public courtyard over the weekend, according to rally organizers.
Organizers of the protest rally did not immediately detail their self-described "list of demands."
The ongoing demonstration will include marches, sit-ins, educational programs, "practice of the democratic process" and "general assembly meetings wherein solutions to overlapping issues are identified," the group's online message asserted.
Organizer Lutz encouraged San Diegans to take part.
"The Occupy Wall Street movement is sweeping across the country," Lutz said.
"People from all walks of life, political persuasions and occupations are joining together to demand that our economic system become more just. Join our movement. With you, we can bring about change."
Known collectively as Occupy Together, the rallies have spurred tens of thousands of protesters, a large majority of them young adults, to come together in recent weeks in dozens of cities, including Los Angeles.
The events have been largely peaceful, though in New York some of the dissidents have gotten into scuffles with police, and more than 700 were arrested Saturday after they swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down a lane of traffic for several hours.