-- | 10.01.2004 20:02 | Repression
Shop owners and managers in Utrecht have plans to display suspected shoplifters in cages in their shop windows. The proposal says a lot about the present political climate in the Netherlands, where right-wing activists dictate the political agenda.
The proposal comes from shop owners and managers at a large 1970's shopping centre in Utrecht. For years it has attracted the homeless, addicts, and street drinkers. Security is difficult, because it is built over the main station, it's very busy, and access cannot be restricted. Shoplifting is a permanent problem. So the shop managers want to take drastic measures. They want to place cages in a numbers of shop windows, and put suspected shoplifters on public display, while they are waiting for the police to pick them up - which might mean all day. Note that the proposal is for suspects - there is no trial, and obviously no legal representation. The shop managers want the legal right to detain anyone in their shop, and put them in a cage on public display, on their say alone.
You might think, that this is so absurd that no-one would take it seriously. But in fact it was backed by a demand for action from the national small business association. They did not support this specific proposal, but demanded the right to put images of any suspected shoplifters on a special website. The Prime Minister went on television the same evening, to express his sympathy with shop owners, and supported this proposal. So either by accident or design, a few right-wing shop managers, in one shopping centre, managed to determine national policy - in one day. And the proposal for the cages has not been withdrawn - it will be discussed with the owners of the shopping centre.