News Crime Melbourne anti-lockdown protest organiser arrested

Melbourne anti-lockdown protest organiser arrested

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has flagged the possibility of more protests. Photo: AAP
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The alleged organiser of a proposed anti-lockdown “walk” through Melbourne has been arrested and charged.

Police raided a Middle Park home on Thursday afternoon as part of an investigation into the co-ordination and encouragement of protest activity in metropolitan Melbourne at the weekend.

The 43-year-old man wasn’t home at the time but later handed himself into St Kilda Police Station.

He is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with incitement.

It is understood the arrest is linked to a Facebook event encouraging people to walk the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens’ Tan track on Saturday.

The “Melbourne Freedom Walk” claims to be legal and asks citizens to “come together, get healthy and talk about getting our freedoms back”.

But the online page was hit with a Facebook “legal restriction” on Wednesday, making it unavailable to users based on “local law”.

The event organiser said it meant Facebook had removed the page, shedding 1100 users who had shown interest in the walk and 340 who had committed to attend.

It was re-posted for the same time and place but has garnered considerably less attention.

The organiser of Saturday’s “walk” has been named by multiple media outlets as Tony Pecora.

Businessman Clive Palmer dropped Mr Pecora as a United Australia Party candidate for the federal seat of Melbourne prior to the 2019 election after he espoused September 11 conspiracy theories.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has flagged the possibility of more protests at other locations at the weekend.

“Apparently Saturday, they’re planning for the Tan and it might not be there, there could be other areas, but we will have the same approach,” he told 3AW.

Other “freedom” rally posters for this Sunday and every Saturday until restrictions end are also circulating online.

Four men were charged with incitement in the lead-up to last Saturday’s Freedom Day rally in Melbourne, as about 200 people gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance and Albert Park.

Violent scuffles between protesters and police broke out, resulting in 17 arrests and more than 160 fines.