Former Footy Show star Sam Newman has abruptly pulled back on his call to arms to a quarter of a million Melburnians to protest against Stage Four lockdown after threats of being arrested.
“Of all the protests that we have put up with, how about ¼ million of us gather in the CBD to take the City/State back, before EVERY previous march will have been pointless,” he posted to Twitter on Sunday.
It follows after anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police in the Victorian capital.
“And hopefully a State day of co-ordination. Any takers. #StateofSurvival.”
The comments were criticised to be irresponsible, with one accusing the former AFL champion of “inciting a riot”.
Newman called the protest “an expression of desperation for our sanity” and vowed there would be no “rioting, looting, arson or violence”.
However, his attempts to soothe any worries did not work on Victoria Police.
Newman could face the same fate as a number of other Victorians who have attempted to organise protests in recent months, which is arrested.
It seems that realisation dawned on the TV personality when he joined Sunrise on Wednesday morning.
“It was hyperbole, it was an arbitrary figure,” Newman told Sunrise.
“I said wouldn’t it be great to have 250,000 people wandering through the city – I don’t encourage people to do that but it was just a sign that this government should cautiously reopen business enterprises in the city before it rusts over.
“I didn’t encourage a quarter of a million people to march through the street … I said theoretically wouldn’t it be a great idea.
“I’m not asking people to come from all over Victoria to protest and I’m not trying to get the police involved.
“If they want to arrest me and put me in jail for this, that’s fine.
“But I’m not suggesting it and never did in the first place.”
In a statement to 7 News after Newman’s initial tweet, Victoria Police said they were “actively investigating those responsible and encouraging protest activity on Saturday”.
“Victoria Police expects to make further arrests over coming days in respect to individuals suspected of inciting illegal activity,” they said.
“Organising and participating in this protest would be a serious and blatant breach of the Chief Health Officer’s directions and jeopardises the health of the entire community.”
Anyone who attends the CBD protest “can expect a swift and firm response from police”, who will have “no hesitation in issuing $1,652 fines to anyone breaching Chief Health Officer directions or making arrests on the day if necessary”.
This article originally appeared on Over60.