The Christmas When the French City of Angoulême Built Cages Against Its Homeless People

Angoulême city hall. Photo by JLPC. CC BY-SA 3.0

Angoulême city hall. Photo by JLPC via Wikipedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

On Christmas Eve, the residents of Angoulême in the southwest region of France found out that the downtown public benches were surrounded by metal fences so that homeless people “cannot come and lay there to get drunk” (as stipulated by a city hall memo).

French Internet users were outraged by the measures: 

WTF RT @sudouest: #Angoulême: barbed fences to prevent homeless people from sitting on public benches

City hall is taking full responsibility for the decision, arguing that “the decision was taken with the approval of the local stores downtown”. 

The outrage grew strong and was further amplified when news spread that the mayor has just given himself a raise: 

The Angoulême mayor takes measures against homeless people but gives himself a … 62% raise! And there are people who give their vote to such a politician? 

A few Internet users suggested that cartoonists ought to boycott the renowned annual cartoon festival of Angoulême in protest: 

Will cartoonists boycott the city that fenced out homeless people #Angoulême?

The France-Info website reported on the proposed boycott by a group of cartoonists. Denis Robert, a writer, cartoonist and member of the jury for the festival, was not in favor of a boycott. Instead, he posted a note on his Facebook page to encourage his fellow cartoonists to write to the mayor directly: 

Je ne suis pas un dingue des pétitions, mais avec quelques amis nous avons écrit ce court texte et l’avons expédié à la mairie d’Angoulême à cette adresse :
A recopier, à diffuser largement et à expédier à fond les manettes…

Mr le Maire,
Au début, nous avons cru à un gag mais il a bien fallu nous rendre à cette évidence. Vous avez réellement fait grillager les bancs publics d'Angoulême pour éviter que les sdf et autres punks à chien ne s'y posent. Il est très délicat pour nous, dessinateurs, journalistes, éditeurs, amateurs de bandes dessinées ou simples passants d'accepter cette manifestation d'intolérance, de laideur et d'indignité sans broncher. Nous vous demandons donc de retirer ces grilles et de rendre aux bancs publics d'Angoulême leur fonctionnalité. Nous aimerions y poser nos fesses lors du prochain festival. Cela vous éviterait des embarras et des manifestations supplémentaires de notre désarroi.

I'm not crazy about petitions but with a few friends, we decided to write this short text and send it to the mayor of Angoulême at:
Here is a copy of the letter, to disseminate widely if you so wish: 

Mr. Mayor,
At first we thought it was a joke, but sadly the reality is undeniable. You actually built fences around public benches in Angoulême to prevent homeless people and punks with dogs to use them. It is very difficult for us, designers, journalists, editors, fans of comic strips or simple passersby, to accept this decision rife with intolerance, ugliness and shame. We therefore ask you to remove the grids and give Angoulême's benches their roles back. We would like to have the freedom to sit our butts down on them at the next festival. This would save you the embarrassment and additional demonstrations of our outrage.

The parody Twitter account AgenceFrancePresque sarcastically suggested a more human decision: 

#Angoulême: Homeless people should be given access to public benches but tourists will not be allowed to feed them peanuts 

Internet user @Nitro_Politic describes himself as an “activist against poverty, racism and lying politicians”; he identified the commercial brands that condoned the measure: 

The anti-homeless fenced benches with the brands linked to the fences. Find them here:

A few teenagers showed signs of solidarity with homeless people:

Two teenagers seating inside the anti-homeless cages (video) via @charentelibre

Given the viral nature of the outrage, the mayor decided to remove (temporarily or not) the cages on the night of December 25:

Ashamed, the mayor discreetly removed the fences last night

Angoulême is not an isolated case, though. Other larger French cities followed the same logic, like this measure in front of a bank in France:

Caged fences in #Angouleme but it is not better in Paris. Lawmakers should take action: 

Elsewhere in the world, more welcoming measures were taken, like this one in Canada: 

In Canada, public benches… welcoming homeless people viaême


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