After encouraging members of the public to pen ideas for combating knife crime inside chicken boxes, a youth-focused organisation plans to hand these to the Home Office on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Word On The Curb - a youth culture content agency backed by the London Mayor - began canvassing people to write potential solutions for Britain’s ongoing spate of violence outside of Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London.
Dozens of Londoners stopped to share their thoughts as the movement gained some social media traction; over 100 ideas were submitted in total, such as more investment in youth services and greater financial assistance for single parent homes.
This comes in response to the Home Office’s #KnifeFree campaign which was widely slammed as being ‘offensive’ after being announced on Wednesday.
Hayel Wartemberg, co-founder of Word On The Curb, praised the “passionate” response to Saturday’s event.
He told HuffPost UK: “The #KnifeFree campaign has taken its most insidious step of racially stereotyping, undermining and patronising Londoners - young and old - with regard to issues surrounding knife crime”.
“Whilst we believe the intention behind the campaign was without malice - what it has come to represent is how out of touch the decision makers are at the home office, the lack of diversity in their team and also the unconscious bias that demeans and criminalises young people - particularly those of colour in our country,” he continued.
By approaching the Home Office with these suggestion-filled boxes, Wartemberg says they will be providing the government with “real, authentic insight” into how Londoners feel about serious youth violence.
“We have always believed in consultancy/insight led campaigns, particularly with regards to issues of national concern, and we believe the tone deaf nature of this particular campaign displays a lack of consulting with Londoners,” he explained.
More than 300,000 chicken boxes that feature a Home Office anti-knife crime campaign have been distributed to over 200 outlets across the UK, it was announced on Wednesday.
As part of the government’s #knifefree push, the insides of the boxes are printed with real life stories of young people who have chosen to pursue positive activities, such as boxing or music, instead of carrying a knife.
The boxes will replace the standard packaging in both independent and chain chicken shops, including Morley’s, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken. Many of the participating shops will also have accompanying screens showing films promoting the campaign.
The food containers are being introduced nationwide following a successful partnership with Morley’s in March this year, during which 20,000 takeaways were distributed in 15 branches.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott Labour called the move ”crude and offensive”.
She said: “Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign.
“They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them.”
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted “Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What’s next, #KnifeFree watermelons?”, echoing the widely perceived notion that the Home Office is racialising the issue of knife crime.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.
“The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police’s ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets.”
The #knifefree campaign is aimed at young people aged 10 – 21 from all backgrounds, a Home Office spokesperson told HuffPost UK.
Research by an advertising agency, All City Media Solutions (ACMS), showed that 67% of chicken shop customers are aged between 16-24. Using this information, the Home Office aimed to “effectively reach young people”.
The government also held focus groups which supported the #KnifeFree measure with participants stating that fast food outlets were one of their favourite places to meet with friends.