Hyde Park chess fans stage
By Celeste Garrett
Published July 20, 2002
About 70 demonstrators marched on a
Hyde Park retail center Friday calling for the return of four popular concrete
chess benches, saying they provided a model for the city on how to bring
together an eclectic neighborhood.
Longtime local chess players, mothers
and their schoolchildren, University of Chicago students and citywide chess
enthusiasts held placards that read "Bring Back Chess" and played the game in
the middle of Harper Court on portable chessboards to protest the removal of the
benches by the court's management.
"There was one summer that my
son, David, was down here every day playing with these guys," said Nancy
Jacobson, as David, 10, played chess nearby. "They took such care and time in
teaching him the game, and the idea that they are some scary bunch of guys out
here--there's just no way."
Though several protesters wore
T-shirts with pictures of chess pieces and "Boycott Harper Court," many of the
merchants have come out in support of the chess players, including Elaine Elam,
owner of the Calla Lily Gift Shop. She said she is closing her shop soon, in
part, because of her dissatisfaction with the board of the non-profit Harper
"They didn't consult with us about
the chessboards and afterward they tried to tell us that it was to get rid of
the drug dealers," Elam said. "Well, the chess players are gone and the drug
dealers are still here."
Residents who live near the court
said since the boards were removed in spring, drug dealers have become bolder,
with no chess players around or the crowds that would gather to watch