Chess Players Relocated but War Rages On
We just received word over the transom -- via a blog post in SFist, and an ebullient tweet from Supervisor Jane Kim -- that the recently displaced chess players have been moved from their post on Market Street to an area in Yerba Buena Gardens.
That said, this weekend's Occupy Chess protest will continue as planned. According to activist Mesha Irizarry, who helped organize Occupy Chess with members of the Coalition on Homelessness, the new refuge is rather inauspicious because it's not a public commons. "Supposedly that's the area allocated to them, but they're not going," she argues, despite assurances from Kim's office that the chess players are not only happier, but better protected from loiterers and drug peddlers who caused the crackdown in the first place.
"It's the officials making decisions for them," Irizarry says. "It doesn't account for what the chess players want to do."
Southern Police Station Captain Michael Redmond banned chess on the block of Market between 5th and 6th Streets after receiving more than a hundred calls for service from local businesses during the month of August. He told SF Weekly that some chess players were actually a front for drug dealing and hustling, and that such elements weren't just a public irritant, but also a danger to the chess players themselves.
At present, city beautifiers are soliciting donations to give the chess players a permanent home at UN Plaza, another area that Redmond cited for "quality of life issues" -- most of them more innocuous than drug-dealing. Organizers of the SF Plays Chess campaign estimate it will cost about $10,000 for everything from permits to tables and chairs.
Hopefully, that will be checkmate for what's become a snarly match.