Thousands braved the cold weather on Sunday to join a rally against antisemitism which organisers said attracted around 3,200 people.
Protesters held placards marked “Together against antisemitism” and some bearing slogans such as “Antisemitism = Racism / Mr Corbyn – J’accuse” and “racist Corbyn unfit to be PM” during the rally in Parliament Square led by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
The group said some had travelled from Glasgow, Liverpool, Wales and Manchester for the demonstration which sought to raise awareness of growing “Jew-hatred in politics and mounting anti-Jewish hate crime.”
Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, told the crowd: “Today we are here in this square standing before the Mother of Parliaments in the country of the Magna Carta, the country that stood alone as a light in Europe as the hatred of Nazi Germany enveloped the continent.
“We stand here to say that Britain is better than this. We stand here to ask all of the people of our country to stand with us.”
52-year-old Labour councillor Daniel Anderson, from New Southgate, said the event was his first rally against antisemitism.
“I haven’t previously been to rallies that they’ve held in the past. I thought that this time we really need to make a stand,” he told Jewish News.
“I’m certainly not a supporter of a Conservative government. On the other hand, what we’re talking about here is so fundamental to the future, not just of Jews, but I think of many right minded people that frankly, there is a major concern on what the outcome could be next week,” he added, in an apparent reference to the 12 December poll.
Sara Gibbs, 32, a vocal antisemitism campaigner on social media, said the rally was an opportunity to meet and show solidarity with others amid what she described as a “stressful and difficult time” for the Jewish community.
“I think sometimes just the feeling of togetherness and feeling like there are other people around to understand what you’re going through, it’s really important, because you know when you’re online and you’re fighting this stuff, it can feel very isolating and even if you’re in the community online you’re still seeing your laptop at home,” she said.
Also at the protest, 23-year-old student Louis Elton, from Bayswater, said: “I came [to the rally] because my family are Jewish and I find it very upsetting that antisemitism is going to be drowned out as one issues of many.”
Actress Tracy Ann Oberman, who has been an outspoken critic of the Labour Party over the antisemitism row, delivered an emotive speech punctuated by applause from protesters.
She said: “The Jewish community are caught between the pincer grip of the far right and the hard left. Things that used to be mumbled into pints of beers in pubs, or behind closed doors of gentlemen’s clubs are now spoken about and shared freely, without shame.
“I myself have been called a Jewish b**ch, a Zio shill, a paid Israeli Mossad operative with too many shekels in my bank account, that I speak out because I am a tax evader, that like all Jews, I just want to hide my money. I am a zio w**re, and a babe killer.
“Every day I wake up to a barrage of abuse online because I will not shut up. I will not be intimidated, and I will not go away.”
She added: “This is our home. We don’t want to go anywhere. We don’t have to go anywhere. We have a right to be here. We have a right to feel heard. We have a right to feel welcome, and we have a right to feel safe.”
Barrister and TV personality Robert Rinder, whose grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, told the crowd: “The fact that you are here is an act of courage.
“It is a tragedy itself that it needs to be an act of courage. Being a Jew shouldn’t be an act of courage, not just the rich gifts, the threads that we’ve sewn into the tapestry of our incredible country.
“The tragedy is, that’s how it feels today. That’s how it feels to be Jewish, that to be Jewish requires us to be brave, that to be Jewish is something which is dirty furtive and dangerous. Well, we’re here today to say that it’s not.”
“The reality is there are millions out there, millions people of goodwill of every creed of every class of every background of every single religion that understands that what starts in a mural ends in murder,” he added.
The rally featured two non-Jewish speakers, including interfaith campaigner Fiyaz Mughal, founder of the group Muslims Against Antisemitism, who warned antisemitism was “the canary in the coal mine”.
“Not only is that a fact that it doesn’t start and stop there, it affects all of us, and that is why it is essential that we all people our faith and people of no faith, stand up for the decent human centred British values that we are defending at this election,” he said.
“You fought for my rights as a person from a different community coming to live in this country, you invested in this country. You gave up a lot of what your future was for people like me so I take my hat off to you today. And for every day that I’m in this country because my Jewish brothers and sisters have given me a life,” he added.