No more games in Hemming Plaza?

Council committee working on legislation for ban

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Dominoes, cards, chess -- all are fun, competitive games that could soon be banned from Hemming Plaza downtown.

A Jacksonville City Council committee is working on legislation to make the pastimes illegal in the park directly in front of City Hall.

For years, it's been a gathering place for the homeless and an eyesore for the city.

But in hopes of attracting more people to the area, council members have plans to remove tables, where frequenters hang around and play cards and games, along with doing away with the games themselves.

Not everyone agrees with the move.

"I don't think it's right," said Harvey Donner, who plays cards in the park. "Playing cards, Solitaire? I don't think it's right."

Donner says he's not bothering anyone when he plays Solitaire. But under the plan being considered by the council committee looking at problems at Hemming Plaza, it won't matter even if Donner is keeping to himself.

Don Redman, the council member representing downtown, is pushing for the legislation.

"We have the same people that hang out day after day, and not all of them are homeless," Redman said. "We have people that drop people off in the morning, come back and pick them up in the afternoon. They sit there and play cards and checkers. That is all well and good, but it ends up being a gang of people hanging around."

According to Redman and the committee, that leads to problems.

"This park, especially downtown, has become a hangout for people that intimidate people," Redman said. "They intimidate the average person who wants to walk through the park and wants to come to the park."

Many of those who were part of the large groups of people playing cards and Dominoes on Thursday did not want to comment.

"I think it sucks," one man said.

"They just being racist like they always do. We're used to that," another man said.

Others in the park said the city can't really keep people from playing games.

"If y'all take the tables and the games away, we shall bring our own," one man said. "We're not going anywhere."

Area businesses have been complaining about the people in the park and how it keeps others away. But some say the new ban, if approved, is going a bit far.

"It's going to sterilize the park, and the park is supposed to be a usable park with tables and people in it playing games. What is wrong with that?" nearby business owner Ron Chamblin said.

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