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Thousands march against antisemitism in London

Boris Johnson brings family to march against anti-Semitism

Early estimates from police say around 100,000 people were packed into the tight streets of central London, Boris Johnson was among many tens of thousands of people attending the March Against Anti-Semitism in central London on Sunday afternoon.

The former prime minister was seen chatting to crowds, accompanied by his wife, Carrie, and five-month old Frank “Frankie” Alfred Odysseus Johnson. As the march got underway,Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, 40, a far-Right activist better known as Tommy Robinson, was escorted away by police.

The Metropolitan Police later said in a statement, “Officers working as part of the policing and security operation for the March Against Anti-Semitism have arrested a 40-year-old man on the Strand.

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“He refused to comply with a direction to disperse under Section 35 of the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

“He was spoken to and warned on more than one occasion that his continued presence in the area was likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to others. He was directed to leave the area but refused to do so.”

The march, organised by Campaign Against Anti-Semitism with the support of numerous Jewish communal groups and non-Jewish organisations, began at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand before passing along Whitehall and ending at Parliament Square, where addresses by the Chief Rabbi, Home Office Minister of State Robert Jenrick and other high profile public figures were expected

Earlier, Tube services running into the centre of London were busier than a normal morning rush hour as Jews - some proudly wearing stars of David necklaces and kippahs - and others headed for the Royal Courts of Justice, the start point for the march.

Before the event started a police helicopter was seen hovering overhead and the Strand was closed off to cars. Early estimates from police said around 100,000 people were packed into the tight streets of central London.

Thousands, marshalled by volunteers in light blue high-visibility jackets and flanked by police (including some drafted in from Essex), headed down the embankment. Many were adorned with flags - mainly of Israel although the odd Union flag was present - some of which had been bought from entrepreneurial street vendors attracting business with shouts of: “Get your flags, five pounds a pop! Cash or card?”

Some in the crowd held placards with images of people beneath headlines saying: “kidnapped” as chants of “bring them home” erupted from the crowd, followed by the Jewish anthem ‘Am Israel Chai’ (‘the nation of Israel lives’). A sign reading “never again is now” had been left against the wall of the Polish embassy. Some attendees had taken a different approach to get their messages across, with placards proclaiming “give me antipasti not anti-Semitism” and “spread hummus not hate” also visible.

In polling for the Campaign Against anti-Semitism, 69 per cent of British Jews said they are currently less likely to show visible signs of their faith and fewer than one fifth believe the police treat antisemitism like other forms of hate crime.

The poll of 3,744 British Jews taken between Nov 12 and 17 also revealed almost half had considered leaving the UK due to anti-Semitism since the Oct 7 Hamas attacks in Israel.

Mark Elliott-Smith, the priest of Our Lady of the Assumption Warwick Street, said: “I thought I had to be here and show solidarity. I’ve been on a few of the demonstrations. When I wrote something about it I was called ‘a Nazi priest’”

The Rev Richard Coles, a former Church of England parish priest and broadcaster, said: “I’m here in solidarity with Jewish friends who are facing unprecedented levels of anti-Semitism in my lifetime.

“Lately, I’ve been talking to Jewish friends and for the first time they’ve talked about being frightened to walk down the street and I just think that’s intolerable. It’s very important that we stand in solidarity with everyone who is trying to live decently.

“I’ve got complicated feelings about it. I went to the rally for Palestine yesterday, so very Church of England, obviously! But I’m just as much appalled by what I see in Gaza as what I saw in southern Israel.

“So I’m for peace and reconciliation. I’m for people living together in stable peace. Anti-Semitism is a horribly toxic thing and I think we should all unite to reject it.”

On Sunday night, the Met Police tweeted: “The March Against Antisemitism has concluded. As the crowds left along Whitehall, a man was heard to make anti-Semitic comments. He was arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence. In total, there were two arrests during today’s operation.”

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson - who was asked not to attend by organisers - was arrested by police.

There had been concern that he might disrupt the demonstration.

The Met Police later said in total two people had been arrested. As well as Mr Robinson, 40, who was detained at the start of the march, police arrested a man for making antisemitic comments when crowds were leaving Whitehall.

The large crowd gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice and made its way along Whitehall to Parliament Square, where a rally was held.

Placards bearing slogans like "Shoulder to shoulder with British Jews" and "Never again is now" were seen being carried by those taking part.

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis told the crowd at Parliament Square British Jews "will not be intimidated" by antisemitism.

 

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