SAN DIEGO -- Tents and other structures at the "Occupy San Diego'' protest at the downtown Community Concourse need to be removed by midnight, a San Diego police assistant Chief said Thursday.
Chief Boyd Long said the demonstrators will be allowed to remain on the plaza, but not their possessions.
Protesters debated through the night on how to respond. They maintained their desire to express opinions in public.
"We have a fundamental right to stay here and be here," explained Trevor Slutzman of Occupy San Diego, "We will be here to voice that right as long as we possibly can."
Late Thursday night, a rally of several hundred protesters spontaneously marched through downtown San Diego streets, stopping traffic and clogging intersections.
A mini-tent city has sprung up since the beginning of protests by a loose-knit group of activists last Friday. However, the organizers of the World of Dance Tour scheduled for Golden Hall on Saturday have a permit that extends into the concourse, and about 2,000 people are expected to attend, Long said.
Besides tents, larger structures have been set up in the plaza to distribute food and provide medical care, and by organizations touting their political positions.
A group of about 20 mostly calm protesters surrounded the assistant chief as he explained the order and took questions. The police also have a mediator on scene.
Other than some safety issues, protesters with the "Occupy San Diego'' movement have been cooperative with authorities and have a right to demonstrate, Mayor Jerry Sanders said Thursday.
At a news conference on another topic, Sanders made his first comments on the protest.
"So far, their organizers have cooperated with us,'' Sanders said.
He said the fire marshal had them remove propane tanks and a few tents for safety reasons.
Other city officials contacted earlier this week either took a benign or supportive stance toward the protesters.
The only incident to mar the protest thus far has been Monday's death of a defendant in a pending vehicular manslaughter case who plunged to his death from a nearby parking structure. It has not been confirmed if he was taking part in the movement.