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South-west France town brings in fines for sitting in public spaces

The Local France
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South-west France town brings in fines for sitting in public spaces
The city centre of Angouleme, western France. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

A south-western French city will begin issuing fines to those who 'disturb the public tranquillity' by sitting or lying down in public spaces such as pavements or in front of the train station.

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Local authorities in the town of Angoulême - famous for its yearly comic book festival - have introduced a new decree that seeks to limit people from being able to sit down in public spaces.

The rule aims to remind people to display "good manners and civility", as well as to "help people feel more safe and to combat violence and alcoholism", Jean-Philippe Pousset, the deputy mayor of Angoulême told Le Parisien

Pousset told Franceinfo that the decree follows several complaints sent to the town hall by shopkeepers and local residents in response to groups of intoxicated people "disturbing the public tranquillity". 

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The new decree allows a fine of €35 to be imposed on any collection of people "generating a nuisance (ie noise or damage)" and grouped together "either in an immobile or slightly mobile state, though not in transit". 

It also would prohibit people from "sitting, standing or lying down if it obstructs pedestrian traffic". 

Repeat offenders can be charged up to €150 for a second offence. 

The decree is provisional and only valid for one year, and it will be in effect seven days a week from 10am to 9pm in the winter (November to March), and 10am to 2am in the summer (from April to October).

It will apply to the space next to any building or business in operation, as well as public spaces such as squares, gardens and courtyards. The decree also included the space around the train station, town hall and the church 'Saint-Martial'.

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This is not the first time Angoulême has taken aim at people sitting down in public.

In 2014, the city - under the head of right-wing mayor Xavier Bonnefont (who still holds the post) - fenced-off several public benches, reportedly to discourage drunken homeless people from taking up residence in the area. This move generated a strong backlash, with many on social media calling it 'inhumane'. As such, the fencing around the benches was removed. 

https://twitter.com/JPguedas/status/1680476667184140288

The new rule has already generated strong criticism, particularly from left-wing politicians like Raphaël Manzanas, who told Le Parisien that it was "an attack on the freedom of movement" and that it would particularly affect those in precarious situations. 

"Asking people who beg to pay a €35 fine is a bad move on the part of the city", Manzanas said.

However, the deputy mayor said it is "not an anti-begging ordinance". He told Le Parisien that "someone panhandling without disturbing the public space poses no problem. A person lying in the middle of a pedestrians' walkway does".

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Ivan 2023/07/20 15:08
It sounds bad, doesn't it. But I can quite see why people get fed up with drunks, druggies, and groups of obstreperous youths making a nuisance of themselves to the detriment of the citizens. Public space is for the free (forgetting the fact that most people are paying for it) use of the public without hindrance. The ones spoiling that liberty are not usually the ones paying for it.
Carmona Manuel 2023/07/17 17:35
Interesting picture that of a fence wrapped around a bench... I wonder if they do the same to public toilets. Apparently there's an old comedy sketch on TV (I believe one of Rowan Atkinson's) in which a man is arrested by a PC and taken to a police station on the charges of wearing a shirt with loud colors, walking on the cracks of the pavement and walking "all around the place.. " It seems reality is exceeding comedy these days..
Bryan 2023/07/17 17:32
"sitting or lying down" (rather than "laying") would be more correct English
Jane 2023/07/17 17:18
While the quote gets it correct, "sitting, standing or lying down if it obstructs pedestrian traffic," your headline and opening statement incorrectly use "laying" instead of "lying." This is a simple grammatical fact. Today I lie down, or I am lying down. Yesterday I lay down, but I was still lying down. Many people make this mistake, but journalists should be able to avoid it. Please fix!

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