17 Feb 2009

Convoy to Gaza finally sets off

Seven men from Blackburn set off today to join the Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza. These men were wrongly arrested on Friday evening on the M65 motorway as they drove to rendezvous with the convoy in London as it prepared to move off. They are taking three vans full of donations of clothing, medical equipment, nappies and children’s toys. The men have fundraised to pay for their vans, travelling costs and all donations and intend to leave the vans in Gaza as further donations.

Hailed as heroes for the efforts to join the convoy and their fundraising, the men met with Chris Chilvers, the North West organizer of the Viva Palestina aid convoy, before setting off for Dover at noon today. Dr Chilvers said ‘they are very angry about their treatment at the hands of the police and concerned that, despite being released without charge, the police are still refusing to return donations from the vans, personal belongings and mobile phones. The police have offered no satisfactory reason for these violations’.

‘The seven expressed their determination to join the convoy and to keep the trust of all those that donated. Their effort is magnificent and reflects the power of this solidarity movement to support Palestine. By contrast, the police behaviour has been a disgrace’.

Due to the intercession of local councillors, notably Salim Mulla, and the Lancashire Council of Mosques, the Lancashire Police has agreed to meet the costs of getting the group to Tunis and offered safe passage to Calais.

The men will cross from Dover to Calais tonight in vans decorated with posters and salutations such as ‘from Blackburn with love’. They will drive through France to Marseille to join a 24 hour ferry crossing to Tunis in Tunisia. Here the group will meet the Viva Palestina convoy as it arrives from Algeria on Saturday morning. George Galloway is overjoyed that the group has set off and looks forward to uniting them with the convoy in Tunis.

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