By Natalie Thomas
LONDON (Reuters) -Thousands of demonstrators against antisemitism marched in London on Sunday to protest against a rise in hate crimes against Jews since the attack by Hamas militants on Israel in October and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of Gaza.
Protestors carried placards bearing the messages “Shoulder to shoulder with British Jews” and “Zero tolerance for antisemites.” Others showed the faces of Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Some people sang in Hebrew while others chanted “Bring them home” in reference to the hostages.
“I’m here to support my Jewish community and I think we must stand up for ourselves, otherwise if we won’t stand for ourselves who will, you know?” Avraham El Hay, a student, said.
London’s Metropolitan Police received reports of 554 antisemitic offences between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, up from 44 a year earlier, a more than 10-fold increase. Reports of Islamophobic offences almost tripled to 220 in the same period.
“I want this march to achieve for people to understand there is no place for racism in this country,” Kate Worth, a travel agent, said. “We are all equal. And it’s absolutely unacceptable what is happening right now for Jewish people.”
Police arrested a far-right activist, Tommy Robinson, at the start of Sunday’s march after he refused to leave the area at the request of police officers.
Organisers of the demonstration had asked Robinson not to attend because of the distress his presence was likely to cause.
Sunday’s march took place a day after a latest demonstration in the British capital by pro-Palestinian protestors calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
Police estimated 45,000 people marched in the demonstration on Saturday. They did not immediately have an estimate for the size of Sunday’s march.
(Reporting by Natalie Thomas and William Schomberg, Editing by Louise Heavens)