The activists had planned to shut the prestigious cycling race down altogether to protest how it had been launched in Israel last week, but they were confronted and kettled by riot police, as the video above shows.
As members of the Israeli government-backed Israeli team went past, protesters threw out flyers and carried banners with slogans including, “Israel kills, Italy is an accomplice.”
“We made everyone hear our dissent against the exploitation of sport by a state that has for decades practiced apartheid against the Palestinians and which does not respect UN resolutions regarding occupied territories,” protest organizers said, according to an early version of a report from the newspaper La Sicilia.
“There were moments of tension with police,” who used their batons against demonstrators, the newspaper reported.
“Stained with blood”
One activist, Simone di Stefano, told Catania Today that activists had gathered to send the message that “we don’t want this Giro d’Italia that is stained with blood of the Palestinian people.”
Last week, Renzo Ulivieri, the head of the Italian football managers association, posted on Facebook that he would not be watching the Giro this year.
“I could have remained indifferent, but I fear I would have been despised by the people I respect,” Ulivieri wrote. “Viva the Palestinian people, free in their land.”
At a recent meeting of the leftist movement Potere al Popolo (power to the people), Ulivieri elaborated that “the true sporting spirit calls for the unity of people and condemns discrimination and abusive occupation like Israel’s apartheid.”
The latest actions are part of a continuing campaign by Palestinians and their supporters against Israel’s use of the Giro d’Italia to glamorize itself and distract attention from its abuses.
The human rights group Al-Haq noted that 4 May, the day the race started in Jerusalem, coincided with the sixth Friday of protests as part of the Great March of Return in Gaza.
On that day, Israeli occupation forces “injured 195 Palestinian protesters, paramedics, medical staff and journalists, in a demonstration of excessive use of force, including lethal force, against protected civilians,” according to Al-Haq.
Gaza cyclist disabled by Israeli snipers
A particularly pernicious aspect of the Israeli policy – especially in the context of the Giro d’Italia’s purported celebration of athleticism – is “Israel’s deliberate ‘shoot-to-disable’ practice, targeting protected persons in the Gaza Strip with intention to maim and at times permanently disable Palestinians by targeting specific body parts, including the lower limbs,” Al-Haq stated.
“One of the injured protesters who required amputation is Alaa al-Dali, 21, a Palestinian cyclist who was shot by an Israeli sniper with a live bullet under his right knee on 30 March 2018, while he was standing some 200 metres away from the fence,” the human rights group stated.
Al-Dali was training for the 2018 Asian Games for months before he was shot.
“I knew the moment I was shot and fell to the ground, I knew that I would never be able to ride a bicycle again in my life,” he told Middle East Eye.
Al-Haq noted that in the months leading up to the Giro’s kickoff, the first time the race has started outside Europe, “Israel continued to unlawfully alter the status of Jerusalem, introducing legislation to alter the demography of Jerusalem, by targeting Palestinian residency rights and introducing bills to unlawfully incorporate settlement blocs into Israel’s Jerusalem municipality.”
“Giro d’Italia’s choice of location, along with its partners, sponsors and participating teams and individuals, is an indication of its support for Israel’s occupation and violations against Palestinians, including in East Jerusalem,” Al-Haq stated.