Earlier this week, it was reported that the NYPD gave summons to seven neighborhood chess players in Inwood. They were ticketed for playing on chess boards in a children's play area off limits to adults without minors in Inwood Hill Park. This caused some controversy among locals, who couldn't fathom why the men who mentored their children in chess were being hounded, but the Knights gave no ground today, defending the ticketing of the Pawns.
While the men were in defiance of the signs in the park, it seems that everyone agrees that they were neither threatening nor behaving in any other criminal manner: "No one is saying these guys are up to no good, but it has been a precinct concern for a while," an NYPD spokesman told the News. They added today that two of the men arrested had prior felonies. One of those men was Yacahudah Harrison, 49, a homeless man who was arrested in 1991 for assault and child endangerment but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. He told the News that he and the other six men taught kids how to play the game on Saturdays: "The police rolled up on us like we were drug dealers...If we were teaching them to pitch pennies and gamble, that's one thing. But this is chess. We weren't trying to add to the problem."
Local parents agreed with him. One mother, Joanna Johnston, whose 7-year-old son learned to play chess from the men, complained that the cops were focused on the wrong issues: "My larger complaint is really with the attention put on this. A mother was just mugged last Wednesday strolling her carriage through the park. The priorities are skewed." Some called the cops "petty," while mother Gail Mohammed pointed out the uselessness of even having two chess boards in a children's-only area: "Who are these tables for then? Small kids can't play chess. If they don't want adults to use them, they should move them somewhere else."