Monday 20th September
The convoy was welcomed in the city of Vaulx-en-Velin, adjacent to Lyon, by the mayor, M Bernard Genin. The city has the distinction of being the only one in France to fly the Palestinian flag.
But not if the French government gets its way. The regional prefect, responsible for the central government administration of the area, has told the city that the flag has to come down.
‘I’ve written back to him to say that he’s welcome to try,’ responded the mayor, ‘if he can fight his way through the mass crowds who will defend it.’
The convoy left Paris early – the muster was 6am – after another night on the floor of the gymnasium. Most of the 85 had less than four hours sleep, but the road south was mainly motorway and the group, split into three elements, arrived at a service station outside Lyon shortly after 1pm. After a quick lunch provided by local supporters the convoy moved off first to the Hotel de Ville (town hall) in an ear-splitting cacophony of noise, horns honking and the sirens of the two Swedish ambulances screaming.
After the meeting with the mayor the convoy moved off again to the main square in Lyon, the Place Bellecour, parking the 36 vehicles in the middle of it and setting up a stage and amplification for a rally. Hundreds of people crowded around, dozens of postcards and posters were handed out and the organisers had to rebuff the appeals of dozens of people to come on the convoy to Gaza.
After another meal provided by VP local volunteers the convoyers were put up in a hotel, the first time they has slept on a mattress, between clean sheets since they set out.