Cages surrounding each bench in a shopping precinct in Angouleme, south-west France, over Christmas
Cages surrounding each bench in a shopping precinct in Angouleme, south-west France, over Christmas

Cages on seats criticised as anti-homeless

METAL cages that were put over nine public benches on Christmas Eve in south-west France to discourage loitering by drinkers and drug users over the festive period have been criticised as anti-homeless.

The decision to shield the benches, that are "almost exclusively used by people who consume alcohol on a regular basis", was made by the right-wing mayor Xavier Bonnefont of the UMP council in city Angouleme and defended by deputy mayor Joel Guitton.

The cages were allegedly temporarily removed around 24 hours later at around 22:30 on Christmas Day after they were brought to the public's attention, however this has yet to be confirmed by officials.

Apparently, the measure to install grid enclosures over the benches was decided upon "in concert with local traders" who are said to have been concerned with how business would be affected by drunk people and officials denied that it was primarily meant to discourage homeless people from sleeping there, France24 reported.

Regional daily newspaper Sud Ouest alleged that the Champ de Mars shopping precinct, which houses the benches, had become the scene of regular fights between homeless people, often involving dogs and drug deals.

One "shocked" critic, as reported by the newspaper, said: "The council should be more sensitive to human misery."

On social media, others described the move as "inhumane" and "hostile" with many posting memes of Tintin being confronted with the caged benches.

Anti-homeless measures were also seen in south London, where metal spike studs were installed outside a luxury apartment development and were then removed after images of them spread through social media.

The 19 studs measuring around 1.5in each caused such an outcry that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson tweeted: "Spikes outside Southwark housing development to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self defeating & stupid. Developer should remove them ASAP.

"We've spent £34m on the likes of 'no 2nd night out, reaching 3/4s of rough sleepers, but must do more. Spikes are simply not the answer."

A row of one-inch spikes were also removed from outside a Tesco Metro supermarket on Regent Street in central London earlier this year after activists protested against them. The company had claimed the studs were used to deter drinking and smoking.

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