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Campaigners visit Stratford in backlash against government's chicken box knife crime plans

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 August 2019

Chicken boxes being displayed outside the Home Office. Picture: Megan Baynes/PA Wire

Chicken boxes being displayed outside the Home Office. Picture: Megan Baynes/PA Wire

A group of campaigners visited Stratford to canvass ideas on how to solve the problem of knife crime - before taking the messages, written on chicken boxes, to the Home Office.

Chicken boxes being given out in Stratford to try and highlight the knife crime problem in London. Picture: Word on the Curb/PA WireChicken boxes being given out in Stratford to try and highlight the knife crime problem in London. Picture: Word on the Curb/PA Wire

The move by Word on the Curb was a response to the government's decision to spend more than £57,000 distributing anti-knife crime messaging on packaging in chicken takeaways across England and Wales.

The boxes are printed with real stories about young people who have chosen to pursue positive activities instead of carrying a knife.

The Home Office's campaign was branded "embarrassing", "stupid" and "borderline racist" by critics including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, after it was unveiled last week.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, speaking during a visit to Dagenham on Tuesday, August 20, called the move "offensive" and a form of "stereotyping".

But the campaign against the proposal saw Hayel Wartemberg and Ndubuisi Uchea take to the streets with chicken boxes and encouraged Londoners to write their own responses on them by hand, with the aim of delivering the messages to the Home Office.

Solutions offered by members of the public included interest-free business loans for young people at risk, specialised officers in schools and investing in education and youth services.

Nana Opdeu-agyeman, who turned up dressed like a chicken, said: "Their campaign was very demeaning. I think they need to go back to the drawing board and think of different solutions.

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"We just went to Stratford, I don't see why they couldn't do the same."

The boxes, which were pinned on a large board, were not allowed past security and in to the building.

But after gathering outside, the group were invited in to meet with two staff members, who gave them an email address and encouraged them to send across their suggestions for tackling violent crime.

Mr Uchea said: "We are hoping that this will lead to some sort of action. Our idea was to utilise Londoners and subvert this campaign and turn it into something far better."

Mr Wartemberg said: "We feel happy. We have been able to speak to someone and people have seen our campaign and had an opinion on it, which is enough.

"We are only as happy as the outcome. If nothing happens on it you are negating the power on what we are doing."

He added that the boxes were "absolutely" a waste of money, which could have been put back into youth services.

The government's #knifefree messaging will appear on 321,000 fried chicken boxes at outlets in England and Wales including Morley's, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken.

On the campaign's announcement, 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."

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