Anti-lockdown protest organiser charged with incitement over Melbourne rally

·2 min read

One of the organisers of Australia’s anti-lockdown movement has been charged with incitement.

Harrison McLean was one of hundreds of people arrested by Victorian police after a week of protests across Melbourne saw violent clashes between officers and demonstrators.

About 1am on Sunday, 25-year-old McLean wrote on social media that he had been arrested at his Bayswater home.

McLean told the 13,000 followers of his “freedom” group on social media that he had been charged with incitement. Victoria police have since confirmed that.

The Guardian understands the arrest was not in relation to last week’s protest but rather another rally on 18 September which saw hundreds of people clash with police in Melbourne.

“I have accepted bail conditions for release, which including [sic] following [the chief health officer’s] directions and refraining from promoting Freedom Events that contravene directions,” McLean wrote.

The Guardian reported in March that the Monash University graduate and former competitive cheerleader had been running one of the largest anti-lockdown groups under a pseudonym.

Related: Melbourne police break up anti-lockdown protest with non-lethal rounds and teargas

It was revealed that McLean had a history of engaging with a number of far-right groups online.

McLean has previously denied being involved in the far right, saying he was a “libertarian populist”.

While he had initially operated under an alias, McLean has recently begun using his real name online. In the highly divisive, oft-suspicious world of the anti-lockdown movement, his prominence has also seen him targeted by his own followers.

On Friday night, in a voice chat, a number of followers criticised his planning of a failed protest last Friday, and when he announced he had accepted his bail conditions, one member of the group labelled him a “sellout”.

The protests on 18 September saw police arrest 235 people while 10 officers were injured and six were hospitalised. Police said at the time that items including stones, bottles and other objects were thrown at them during the protest.

The Guardian does not suggest McLean encouraged violence at the protest.

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