Demonstrators with a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel stance protested at the starting line of the Australian national championships on Sunday. Their protest was aimed at Simon Clarke, who rides for the Israel – Premier Tech team.
Approximately twelve protesters stormed the course as about 120 cyclists assembled, as depicted in a video shared on Instagram.
Carrying a banner that read “Israel – Premier Tech not welcome,” the demonstrators voiced anti-Israel sentiments, including chants such as “Simon Clarke serves an apartheid regime” and “Free Palestine.” Law enforcement intervened, removing them from the racecourse. Undeterred, the protesters continued their demonstration on the roadside, according to the Australian Associated Press.
Protests will not change team’s name
Most team members are not Israeli, including Clarke, who joined in 2022 and won a stage at the Tour de France that year. A spokesperson from Israel – Premier Tech told Channel 12 that such protests would not deter them from retaining the country’s name on its jersey.
During the demonstration, protester ran to Clarke and was removed. Later, Police then took the group from the course as the national anthem played.
“We are the only professional sports team in the world that includes Israel as part of its name, and we will continue to do so and proudly represent the country,” the statement read.
Escape Collective reported that on Saturday, the Australia Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) plans to extend their protest from Parliament House steps to the Down Under Classic criterium circuit on Wakefield Street. There, they intend to line the 1.35 km circuit with banners and “raise the Palestinian flag at the Tour Down Under village,” expressing their opposition to team’s participation in the Santos Tour Down Under.
In November, it was disclosed, according to a WielerFlits report, that Israel – Premier Tech would implement new safety measures for riders and staff in light of the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict. Concerns had arisen among team members about potential incidents during training sessions, particularly when passing by protests. In response to these security apprehensions, the team has chosen a special training jersey devoid of national symbols for both cyclists and team personnel.