Police in San Francisco recently put an end to to the decades-long tradition of people playing chess on the sidewalk along Market Street, saying the games were being used as a cover for drug dealing.
For years, chess games lined the sidewalk on Market Street between 5th and 6th streets.
Now the homeless who often ran the chess games tell KTVU they're caught in between police and people who commit crimes.
57-year-old Marvin Boykins has a long history with the game. He said he was a young boy when he first learned chess as a way to stimulate logical thinking. As a homeless adult, it is a way to socialize.
"You don't know who you're going to meet," said Bokins.
A new challenge came when police recently confiscated his table and chairs along with those of other homeless chess enthusiasts.
Boykins was able to hold on to his treasured chess set
"It's something that consoles me," he explained.
But police said Boykins and others like him are just pawns being used by criminals in their drug deals.
"They would pay for the chess table to play chess and they would sell narcotis while they were seated at the table," said San francisco Police Captain Mike Redmond.
Police said they received 100 complaints a month from merchants and pedestrians passing by the area.
In the two weeks since police stopped the games, they've gotten only ten calls.
Despite criticism, police said they felt that the move to end the traditional chess games was not heavy handed.
"I did what I did to protect the chess players as well as the citizens of SF who have to use that street everyday," said Redmond.
Hilary Hibel of Walnut Creek said she applauds police for trying to stop illegal activity in the area.
"I give them credit for looking at it. We'll see if it stops," said Hibel.
Boykins said the police tactic iss unfair because he and other chess players have no control over the criminal activity around them.
"We're not the ones who made them do what they doing," said Boykins. Many of them don't even know how to play chess."
Redmond told KTVU he plans to meet with Boykins and others on Thursday to return their belongings and work out some kind of solution.
As for if chess games will resume on Market Street, Redmond said he could not make any promises.
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