You better be careful what you do and where you do it in the parks, New Yorkers. The police are watching. Apparently when they aren't giving out summons for being unaccompanied by minors in playgrounds and threatening tickets for using motorized boats in a Central Park's boat pond, the police are going and arresting people for sitting at chess tables and not playing chess? According to Neither More Nor Less that is exactly what happened to a woman named Lisa in Tompkins Square Park. In fact, she says she spent 32 hours in the system because she was't playing the King's Game.
We haven't been able to confirm her story with the 9th Precinct, but here is Lisa's side of the situation:
A few days ago at 10 in the morning Lisa was sitting at a chess table. Lisa claims she had been sitting at the table for approximately 10 minutes when police approached her, referred to the sign above and then arrested her. Two others were taken away with her. At the time of the arrest several of the chess tables had people sitting at them not playing chess. Witnesses that we spoke to mostly corroborate her account of the event. Lisa claims that she spent 32 hours in the system, at the 9th precinct and then downtown at central booking. This all occurred because, according to Lisa, of a claimed violation of the park rule displayed on the sign above.
Lisa claims that after the arrest, while in custody at the 9th precinct, police found that she had a warrant for not having provided to authorities at the proper time and place a paper certifying that she had completed a previous period of community service. Later, while downtown in central booking, the violation of the park rule for which she was originally arrested was dismissed by a judge.
Now, as NMNL points out, "there are many difficult problems, some involving considerable violence, created by ongoing illegal activities at the chess tables" and dealing with those issues can be dangerous and difficult. But at the same time this case, as described, seems like yet another example of the police using far more power than necessary to enforce a rule when it really ought to be just as easy to solve with a simple "move along, folks."
Park chess boards were previously in the news last year when the police ticketed a number of chess players in Inwood for being too close to a children's playground. They eventually fought the tickets in court and won.