Cyclists of all ages and religions rode from a Sydney mosque to a memorial near the site of a recent siege on a cafe, in a moving tribute to two hostages who lost their lives.
Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson were killed Dec. 15 by lone wolf gunman Man Haron Monis following a siege that closed down Sydney’s Central Business District for 17 hours.
Johnson was the 34-year-old manager of the Martin Place Lindt cafe where Monis held 17 hostages, while Dawson was a 38-year-old barrister and mother of three.
While the cyclists numbered around 54 when they pedaled off at 05.30 a.m. Sunday from the Lakemba Mosque, the group had almost doubled in size by the time it arrived at Martin Place, an 18 kilometer (more than 11 mile) ride.
Some members of the group, which included the Sydney Muslim Cycling Group, displayed signs that read “illridewithu,” the Twitter hashtag that took off after the siege as a symbol of solidarity with the Muslim community.
Osman Karolia, the organizer of the ride, told The Anadolu Agency that while he was perfectly happy to see the placards, the “ride was not about slogans, publicity or hashtags but to pay our respects to Tori and Katrina.”
The deputy headmaster at Unity Grammar said, “If one message is to come out of this ride, it’s that we will not be divided as a city or a nation and we will always show unity and strength in the face of adversity.”
The cyclists laid flowers at the memorial site in the business district, just meters from the Lindt cafe where the siege had started during the morning rush hour.
Also remembered in the gesture were the 132 Pakistani schoolchildren killed in the Taliban attack in northern Peshawar last week.
“They were killed by the same murderous mindset which killed Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson,” Karolia said.
“Muslim or not, we are all collective victims of this murderous mindset.”
Karolia told AA that anti-Muslim sentiment following the siege had been isolated to a few minor incidents and “massively overshadowed by the hand of goodwill."
“That’s part of the motivation to do this cycle,” he said. “To return that hand and extend ours.”
Among the participants was Sophie Bartho of the Bicycle New South Wales association, who described the tribute as “simple but compassionate.”
"It gave me a sense of hope,” she told AA. “It was a wonderful way to show the community unity and that we all support each other regardless of our backgrounds and our beliefs."
Bartho noted that the bicycle is a symbol of freedom, “an interesting perspective in itself.”