Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters have vowed to swarm the streets of Melbourne on Saturday in a so called ‘Freedom Day’ rally.
But many have since backflipped on the plan and are urging other demonstrators to stay at home, labelling the protest a ‘trap’.
The marches were expected to last the whole day, spanning across the coronavirus-riddled city including the Shrine of Remembrance and Parliament House.
Now some of the state’s biggest coronavirus-deniers have announced they won’t be attending, saying any demonstrations could prompt Premier Daniel Andrews to extend the lockdown.
James Bartolo, one of the biggest pushers behind the anti-lockdown movement, was charged with incitement on Friday for allegedly encouraging his mass following to attend the rally.
Thousands of protesters were expected to swarm the streets of Melbourne on Saturday (pictured anti-lockdown protest outside Parliament House in Melbourne in May)
Police have warned anybody attending the rallies will be hit with massive fines (pictured man is detained at an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne last month)
Police smashed their way into his home using a battering ram to knock down the front door.
Following his arrest, Bartolo told Nine News he would not longer be in attendance.
‘I wanted people to not go to the protests, now, hopefully, (the) protest won’t go ahead, I hope you put that on,’ he said on Friday night.
‘It’s a trap because Daniel Andrews just wanted to blame the protest to extend the lockdown.’
Sharing a video on his personal Facebook page, the 27-year-old said Saturday’s march was the ‘worst possible thing’ to do.
‘It is a set up from the get go. It is all just terrible. Don’t go to that one,’ he said.
‘I say don’t go because I am concerned about the safety of the brave men and women who plan to go. The police are not forcing me to say anything.’
The Freedom Day rally was expected to be held at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on Saturday
James Bartolo (pictured) one of the biggest anti-lockdown pushers has now said he will not attend the protest after he was arrested for incitement
Bartolo urged his followers not to attend the planned protest on Saturday
Bartolo said that with Premier Daniel Andrews’ road map out of Stage Four restrictions to be revealed on Sunday, marches on Saturday would do more harm than good.
Police have warned they will be out in full force for anyone who will attend the protests.
Along with Bartolo, three other men have been arrested and charged with incitement of the Freedom Day rallies.
‘The tinfoil hat-wearing brigade are alive and well in our community,’ Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said a week ago.
‘They’re taking every opportunity to leverage the current situation to serve their own ridiculous notions about so-called ‘sovereign citizens’, about constitutional issues and about how 5G is going to kill your grandkids.
A protester in Melbourne is arrested during an anti-lockdown rally on August 9
‘It’s bats*** crazy nonsense.’
Mr Andrews on Friday backed police efforts to shut down any planned protest rallies while the lockdown rules remain in place.
‘You can’t ignore the reality you’re in and give yourself a leave pass and go and do something that, in all likelihood, will contribute to the spread of this (virus),’ he said.
The premier will announce the details of Victoria’s road map out of lockdown on Sunday.
A leaked top secret draft for the city’s exit road map earlier revealed the government’s plan to extend the 8pm-5am curfew and keep restrictions on businesses for an additional two weeks.
While the Victorian government has claimed the leaked map is ‘out of date’, premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday refused to rule out continuing Stage Four restrictions.
Top secret draft documents for the city’s exit road map have revealed the government’s plan to extend the 8pm-5am curfew (pictured, police roam Melbourne on Thursday)
‘Everything is on the table,’ he admitted. ‘It will be driven by the data and the science, how many cases there are, the types of cases there are.’
According to the leaked documents, residents will be given the luxury of two hours of exercise a day, which can be split into two sessions, from September 14 – the official date Stage Four comes to an end.
Single people and single parents would also be given the right to have a nominated visitor at their home.
According to the report, which was obtained by the Herald Sun, there are bigger changes coming from September 28, which includes the curfew being lifted and increased social gatherings.
Melbournians are seen enjoying their one hour a day of exercise as hope of Stage 4 restrictions easing fades during COVID-19 in Melbourne (pictured on Thursday)
The report stated that from September 28, up to five people, including children, from up to two households will be allowed to meet outdoors for social interaction.
Permits will no longer be required for childcare and in-home childminding, according to the document.
Outdoor personal training would be allowed for up to two people per trainer and outdoor pools will open for exercise for up to 20 people at a time.
The documents claim that to move to Stage Two, the state must record a daily average of fewer than five new cases over a two week period.
It must also record fewer than three cases from an unknown source during that time, however, this has not happened since June.
WHAT MELBOURNE’S STAGE FOUR LOCKDOWN MEANS FOR YOU
State of disaster: Increased police powers to enforce the lockdown. Cautions will no longer be issued, only $1,652 fines or court summons
Curfew: No one allowed outside 8pm to 5am except for work, medical, caregiving – no shopping or exercising
Distance limit: Shopping and exercise can only be done 5km from home
Exercise: All recreational activity is banned and you can only exercise, with one other person, for one hour a day
Partners: You can visit a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t live with you, even if they live more than 5km away
Shopping: Only one person can go shopping per household per day
Cafes and restaurants stay open for takeaway, as do supermarkets, etc
Schools: All students learning from home unless they are vulnerable or parents are essential workers. Kindy and childcare closed
Funerals: No change to funeral limits, but only 10 mourners can leave Melbourne to regional Victoria for one
Weddings: Completely banned
Public transport: Slashed after 8pm and cancelled late at night
Community sport: All community sport across Victoria is now banned. Only exercise is allowed within the permitted public gathering limits of two people.