An anti-lockdown rally organiser will be freed on bail after a court heard he secretly buried his mobile phone in his solicitor's front yard and told police he may continue to organise protests.
Tony Pecora, 43 – a former candidate for Clive Palmer's United Australia Party – appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court via video link from St Kilda Police station on Friday, after his arrest on two counts of incitement.
Tony Pecora.Credit:United Australia Party
Detective acting Senior Sergeant David Schaefer told the court Mr Pecora, who runs a sustainable energy company, used an online alias to create anti-lockdown protest events on Facebook, including one scheduled for the Tan on Saturday.
"He believes that COVID-19 is a genetically engineered virus created by world banks to kill off weaker humans,” Senior Detective Schaefer said.
“[Asked how he would feel] if a person at his rally contracted COVID-19 and died, he stated that ‘it would be better to die on your feet than live on your knees’; a term used in a Midnight Oil song.”
The court heard police first arrested Mr Pecora for alleged breaches of the Chief Health Officer's directions during a protest at the Shrine of Remembrance on August 22.
Protesters at last weekend’s anti-lockdown rally.Credit:Justin McManus
In opposing bail, police said Mr Pecora's alleged offending posed a "serious risk" to public health and his preparedness to attend rallies could result in deaths.
But Mr Pecora’s lawyer Christopher Wareham argued the police push to keep his client in custody was nothing but "preventative detention" with a monetary fine the maximum penalty for Mr Pecora's charges. He said continuing to lock up his client would be unjustified.
"He didn't do anything but encourage others to gather," Mr Wareham said.
"He's entitled to have a view about COVID-19."
Magistrate Felicity Broughton granted Mr Pecora bail on a raft of conditions including restrictions to his movement and online activity.
The bail conditions include not planning or attending any mass gatherings, not attend the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Shrine of Remembrance or Parliament, providing police with the details of his computers and electronic devices, and removing himself as an administrator of the Melbourne “freedom” protest events on social media.
He must also reside at his bayside home during curfew hours.
Mr Pecora is due to return to court on September 25.
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