The second leg of the 2019 Big Ride for Palestine started and ended in Manchester on Saturday, and saw more than 200 cyclists show the flag and raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinians. The route took the riders past the home of Manchester United FC, Old Trafford, as well as the club’s training centre in Carrington. This tied in with the fund-raising objective to raise money for sports equipment for traumatised children in the besieged Gaza Strip. Even before this year’s Big Rides took place, more than £130,000 had been raised for the Middle East Children’s Alliance since 2015.
After leaving St Peter’s Square in central Manchester, the riders were cheered on by well-wishers and supporters in places as diverse as Lymm, Warrington, Dunham Massey and Sale. Most onlookers were receptive to the message of the Big Ride — “End the Israeli occupation” and “Free Palestine” — and leaflets were handed out by riders explaining the rationale, especially to (mainly) very patient drivers held up at road junctions to let the long string of cyclists pass safely. A shout-out is also due to a business-owner in Lymm who offered to let Big Riders re-fill their water bottles on his premises.
As happened in London last weekend, a reception was held for the riders at the end of almost 50 miles of cycling through the suburbs of Manchester and rural north-west Cheshire. The highlight of the short speeches was provided by Newcastle-born activist Chandni Chopra. Chopra berated politicians and a compliant media for trying to prevent free and honest criticism of Israel and its founding ideology, Zionism, by basically weaponising anti-Semitism.
“We are not anti-Semitic when we criticise Israel and its policies,” she told the audience, “nor are we anti-Semitic when we talk about human rights for the Palestinian. We are pro-humanity.” The people of Palestine have waited more than 70 years since the Nakba for justice, she added. “And we need to let governments know that.”
Participants in the Big Ride for Palestine 2019, in both London and Manchester, agreed that the need to plan for next year and beyond is more significant than ever before, with Gaza said by the UN to be “unliveable” by 2020. “Keeping the issue alive in people’s minds is so important,” one rider told MEMO. “Taking the message into our towns, cities and villages is something that we can do relatively easily, and lets the Palestinians know that they have not been forgotten,” said another.
Although the route of Big Ride for Palestine 2020 will not be decided until later this year, one thing is certain; it will take place. The effort to raise awareness of the desperate situation of the people of Palestine has become an annual event on the calendar.
(Source: Middle East Monitor)