The Big Ride for Palestine took to the roads and cycle tracks of England's midlands and north-west over the weekend to raise awareness of the Palestinian issue and funds for children and para-cyclists in the besieged Gaza Strip. More than 250 riders left Derby city centre on Friday morning and headed for Manchester via Stoke on Trent.
On the way the riders aged from 5 to 80 lobbied the JCB Golf Championship near Uttoxeter. They joined a small protest by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK (ICAHD UK) and other Palestine solidarity activists pointing out the irony of JCB donating money to children's charities in this country while selling heavy machinery to Israel, which the apartheid state uses to demolish Palestinian homes and make children homeless. The company was less than happy with the disruption to its corporate whitewash event, and there was a visibly heavy security presence.
"JCB has a legal and moral responsibility to ensure its equipment is not used in human rights abuses," said the supporters of the protest Amnesty International, Amos Trust, War on Want, ICAHD UK, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and, of course, Big Ride for Palestine. "It must end its involvement in Israel's cruel system of apartheid and ensure its equipment is not used in crimes against humanity."
Undaunted by the frosty response at the JCB Golf and Country Club, the riders proceeded to Stoke, where they were welcomed at a rally organised by local solidarity activists from Stoke's City Central Mosque. The mosque committee Chair, Councillor Amjid Wazir, announced that a collection earlier in the day had raised more than £3,000 for the charities supported by the Big Ride, specifically the Middle East Children's Alliance and the Gaza Sunbirds, a cycling club established to champion para-cyclists and help them in their aim to take part in the next Paralympic Games in 2024.
Handing out leaflets about JCB and the aims of the Big Ride 2022 to local residents along the way, the Big Ride arrived in Manchester on Saturday evening in time for the city's first Big Gig for Palestine, which celebrated and showcased Palestinian artists.
The programme culminated with a fifteen-mile ride through and around Manchester on Sunday followed by a rally in Platt Fields Park organised by Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Speakers included actor Maxine Peake, who told the rally that such activism is essential, not only for the people of occupied Palestine, but also because, "Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere."
That was the message that the Big Riders took away with as they headed to their homes all over the country. Volunteer-led, the Ride is inclusive and diverse, involving people of all ages, ethnicities, religions, abilities and political persuasions.
"We all come together to ride side-by-side to show our support for Palestine," coordinator Ellen Logan told MEMO. "Everyone is welcome on our ride, and we strongly oppose all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism."