San Francisco police have confiscated the chess playing equipment, chairs and tables near Fifth and Market streets citing an increase in crime for the removal of a long-time tradition.
Police said the players were not the problem, but that the surrounding area had become a place for illegal gambling and drug use.
"It's turned into a big public nuisance," Capt. Michael Redmond said. "I think maybe it's a disguise for some other things that are going on."
Chess players who frequented the area said they were disappointed to see the equipment removed.
Hector Torres Jr., a regular chess player, said chess saved him from a gambling addiction when he moved from Las Vegas to San Francisco 20 years ago. He said it had been a discrimination-free zone, welcoming everyone from millionaires to prisoners.
“They’re being mean for no reason,” Torres said. “To me, it’s a scapegoat.”
Employees at nearby businesses are relieved that the tables are gone, saying they had been an excuse for illegal activity.
Manager at Beauty Supply and Hair Salon Dimitri Madrid sent four letters to Mayor Ed Lee complaining about the alcohol and drug abuse surrounding the tables. Now, he notices that people no longer clutch their wallets and purses or cross to the other side of the street as they walk by the area.
Since the tables were removed, Madrid said sales have increased and the street is quieter.