Melbourne lockdown protest organiser Fanos Panayides arrested

A former reality TV contestant has been revealed as one of the protest organisers arrested on Tuesday during a police crackdown on a planned “freedom day” event.

Police arrested former Family Food Fight star Fanos Panayides, 38, of Epping, during a search warrant on Tuesday morning.

Police seized Mr Panayides’ mobile phone and laptop, and he was taken into custody before being released later in the day charged with incitement.

He was bailed to face Melbourne Magistrates Court in February next year along with a Coburg man, 28, who was also charged with incitement.

It’s the second time Mr Panayides has been arrested this year after he was detained by police at anti-lockdown protests outside Parliament House in May.

Mr Panayides had been heavily promoting Saturday’s “freedom day” event where organisers were boldly encouraging 500,000 people to march at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance in protest against Victoria’s lockdown laws.

Similar protests are also planned in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and Byron Bay.

NCA Newswire reached out to Mr Panayides to ask if he was planning to continue his advocacy after his release from custody but are yet to get a response.

Mr Panayides hasn’t been heard from publicly since he was granted bailed, apart from a few “I’m out” Facebook posts about his arrest.

Social media posts from others close to him suggested he was in “good spirits” and was still looking forward to celebrating “national freedom” on Saturday.

In a Facebook rant on Sunday, Mr Panayides said if no one ended up going this Saturday, he would “stand there on (his) own”.

“This is bigger than everybody,” he told his 27,000 followers.

“I did not choose this life. I didn’t decide to create all this, it just happened.

“I’m nothing but some bloke from Epping who decided to speak up.”

He said he was not the main organiser, but there was a collective of people who “decided to make a difference”.

Mr Panayides has promoted various conspiracies around vaccinations and 5G technology and believes the government is lying about coronavirus.

He also urged his followers to smash their TVs in protest of the media telling them what to think and appeared on a controversial episode of 60 Minutes in June that featured chef turned conspiracy theorist Pete Evans.

Victoria Police said they were “committed to putting a stop” to Saturday’s planned protest and would continue to actively investigate the co-ordination and encouragement of the event.

“This is a serious breach of the chief health officer directions and jeopardises the health of the entire community,” police said in a statement.

“Those still thinking of attending the CBD to protest on Saturday can expect a swift and firm response from police.”

Police said they would have no hesitation in making more arrests and handing out $1652 fines.

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