The game of chess has been around for thousands of years. The game has been played by peasants, children, masters, and royalty. But the game has never been a crimeâ€¦until now.
Six men who have spent the past several months playing chess at a stone table designed for that purpose in the Inwood Hill Park in New York City on October 20 when city police issued summonses to all six for failure to obey park rules. The Problem? The table was located in an area of the park that had been designated for children and their minders.
Yacahudah Harrison and the five other men were offered a plea deal of adjournment in contemplation of dismissal â€“ which means that the matter would be dropped if the men stayed out of any trouble with the police for six months. Three of the men accepted the deal, one did not appear in court, but Harrison and the other man â€“ name withheld â€“ declined the deal demanding the matter go to trial.
The case goes to trial next week and if the men lose, they could be subject to 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. Harrison said that they had done nothing wrong but were treated like criminals. Harrison is seeking to take the case to trial on principle.
The sign in the park stating the area is only for children under age 12 is not visible to Harrison and his chess playing mates from the entrance they use; Harrison says that he had not seen the sign. Lawyer Norman Siegel said that the men should have simply been asked to leave if there had been any complaints from the community or park users.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne said that the officers were correct in issuing the summonses. Brown adds that officers responded to community complaints about drinking, drug use and other problems.