The British government has been mocked and criticized for putting advertisements meant to discourage knife crime on boxes of takeout fried chicken, according to multiple reports.
The United Kingdom’s Home Office tweeted Wednesday: “We are rolling out our #KnifeFree chicken boxes in over 210 chicken shops in England and Wales, including Morley’s, Dixy Chicken and Chicken Cottage. They use real life stories to show people how they can go #KnifeFree.”
Yahoo UK reported that more than 321,000 chicken boxes featuring the #knifefree campaign have been distributed “to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatizing communities and claiming too many young lives,” according to Policing Minister Kit Malthouse.
“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,” Malthouse added.
The hostile response came quickly on Twitter.
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What’s next, #KnifeFree watermelons?”
He expanded on his tweet to The Guardian.
“The Home Office is using taxpayers’ money to sponsor an age-old trope,” he told the Guardian. “[Prime Minister] Boris Johnson has already called black people ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles.’ Now his government is pushing the stereotype that black people love fried chicken. This ridiculous stunt is either explicitly racist or, at best, unfathomably stupid.”
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbot tweeted: “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.”
Official statistics show that offenses involving knives or other sharp objects, such as murders and robberies, have been on the rise for five consecutive years in England and Wales. Between April 2018 and March 2019, authorities recorded 43,516 knife crime offenses. That's an 80 percent increase over the period between April 2013 and March 2014, when 23,945 offenses were recorded in England and Wales.
Johnson has promised to take several steps to fight violent crime, including stronger police powers.
The government announced plans over the weekend to create 10,000 more prison places to ease overcrowding and said it would allow police to stop and search people “if serious violence is anticipated." Officers were previously required to have "reasonable grounds" to believe a suspect was carrying drugs, a weapon or stolen property to conduct a search.