The long-time manager of Australian music icon John Farnham has blasted anti-lockdown protesters after they performed one of his biggest hits during a rally.
Almost 700 protesters had vowed to swarm Melbourne’s CBD on Sunday for a mass demonstration against the Victorian government’s strict coronavirus restrictions for what organisers touted as ‘biggest protest yet’.
Instead, a small group gathered at Chadstone Shopping Centre in the city’s south-east, where about 50 demonstrators stood outside the Coles supermarket singing Farnham’s 1980s number one hit and Aussie anthem ‘You’re The Voice’.
One man held a guitar and others waved their phones in the air during the five minute singalong before the group scattered in different directions as police arrived.
Farnham’s manager Glenn Wheatley condemned the use of the music icon’s songs in anti-lockdown protests, adding it was against the wishes of the legendary performer.
John Farnham (pictured at the Falls festival in Fremantle in January) has distanced himself away from Sunday’s anti-lockdown protest, where one of his biggest hits was performed
He fears the public will assume Farnham personally endorses the protests happening across Melbourne in recent weeks when he actually opposes the demonstrations.
‘It’s something that John and I do not condone, the use of that song, particularly in a time in Melbourne where we are in Stage Four lockdown,’ Mr Wheatley told The Age.
It comes five years after Farnham and his manager spoke out against his song being used by anti-Islamic group Reclaim Australia during demonstrations.
‘It was not meant to be a protest song, it was meant to be used as an inspirational song for nations and for people, not in a situation of what was an illegal protest,’ Mr Wheatley said.
‘I want to reiterate we support people’s right to protest, but there’s circumstances where the protest can be done, and taking to the streets of Melbourne today is not it.`
He told Seven News: ‘It’s very offensive to John and I that they choose to use You’re the Voice as a theme to this protest.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Mr Wheatley for comment.
It’s not the first time John Farnham’s hits have been used by anti-lockdown protesters. he’s pictured performing at Fire Fight Australia at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium in February
A handful of protesters gathered inside Chadstone Shopping Centre, in Melbourne’s inner southeast, to sing John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ on Sunday after before scattering when police arrived
Anti Lockdown protesters wearing masks inscribed with ‘come and take it’ are seen in Chadstone Shopping Centre on September 20
Farnham is among the five million Melburnians currently living on Stage Four lockdown laws.
You’re The Voice was Australia’s biggest hit in 1986, and ranked number six in radio station Triple M’s ‘Ozzest 100’ most Australian songs of all time in 2018.
It’s not the first time Farnham’s songs have been used during anti-lockdown protests.
A man was arrested last week after he bellowed the iconic hit to more than 10 police officers in Melbourne‘s Royal Botanic Gardens.
‘Are we going to sit in silence and sit in fear?’ he shouted as three officers ripped away his megaphone and grabbed his flag pole.
‘What for? What for?’ he shouts as they tackled him to the ground.
Earlier this month, neighbours in a Melbourne suburban street protest conducted a legal protest from their homes by playing some of Farnham’s biggest hits from their front yards.
That’s Freedom, Chain Reaction and You’re the Voice were selected as the Farnsy classics to be played.
A livestreamed video posted on TikTok showed the darkened street coming to life where several neighbours can be seen standing in their driveways blasting Farnham’s hits.
Protesters waved their phones in the air as they chanted ‘we’re not going to sit in silence’ with some pulling off their masks to sing a long
A second video of Sunday’s protest at Chadstone showed police officers flooding into the centre, at which point protesters had already dispersed.
Despite the rally lasting less than five minutes, an organiser said the flash protest was a ‘victory’ because police were caught off-guard.
‘We were able to get in and out in about 50 minutes with so far no known arrests or fines,’ the organiser told the Herald Sun.
‘However Victoria Police spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars on PORT for today. We consider it their fine for opposing our freedom.
‘We’re going to relish in this victory.’
The group were instructed to regather for another protest at Footscray Market, on the opposite side of the city, but the plan fell through.
Members of Victoria Police patrol through Chadstone Shopping to break up a group of singing protesters but the group had already dispersed
The group could be seen holding up a flag as they paraded through the complex protesting Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions
Police swarmed into the centre (pictured) but the demonstrators had already fled the scene, with a plan to regather at Fitzroy Markets
A row then erupted among protesters over a lack of direction.
They were accompanied by hundreds of general police, who quickly set up road blocks in and out of Chadstone, and checked people’s licenses as they left the shopping centre.
One man was detained and taken to a room in the centre for questioning after being asked to be escorted away from the media.
Two people were arrested and six fines have been issued as a result of the unlawful gathering.
‘Police will continue to play an important role in enforcing the directions of the Chief Health Officer and contributing to limiting the spread of the coronavirus,’ a Victoria police spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We acknowledge and appreciate the vast majority of the community who are doing the right thing. It is only a very small number of people that still choose to put the rest of the community at risk through their selfish behaviour.’
Victoria police vowed to continue taking actions against those who breach the Chief Health Officer’s directions.
Police will also continue to investigate those who attended Sunday’s rally.
At least five Public Order Response teams arrived on the scene as security began turning shoppers away from entering the centre
A group of masked and gloved police officers entered the complex in search of the ‘freedom day’ protesters
Security personnel guard the entrance to the shopping centre after the protest in Melbourne’s inner southeast on Sunday
Screenshots of message exchanges between demonstrators were later shared on Twitter, with organisers expressing disappointment the Fitzroy Market rally had fizzled.
Another leaked correspondence showed protesters discussing how Footscray Markets were closed on Sunday, with someone offering Blackburn Lake, 11km north of Chadstone, as an alternative.
However, a discussion in one group chat claimed news of the second protest was fake, made only to throw off police so those left in Chadstone could escape.
‘There are no more [protests] for today unfortunately. We had a successful protest but conditions didn’t allow the second one,’ a person using the alias Be Water wrote.
But when asked by a fellow protester if that meant they should ‘just disperse’, the same author changed tune.
‘We wanted to move people out of Chadstone so that anyone stuck ‘shopping’ could leave, so we announced Footscray,’ Be Water added.
Organisers have been planning Sunday’s flash protest over the past week using encrypted messages, with attendees ordered to remain within 10 minutes of the main location so they could stream to the area in unison.
A photo shared online shows the poster issued to protesters instructing them to head to Chadstone Shopping Centre
Screenshots of message exchanges between demonstrators were later shared on Twitter, with organisers expressing disappointment the Fitzroy Market rally had fizzled
Protesters discussed whether Blackburn Lake, 11km north of Chadstone, could be an alternative after hearing the Footscray Markets were not open
In another group chat, one protester claimed news of the second protest was fake, made only to throw off police so those left in Chadstone could escape
The details of the location were released 30 minutes prior to the rally.
In an Instagram poster promoting the event, organisers vowed to ‘flow like water’ during the main protest.
Scouts and rogue cops will reportedly be feeding information about where police are conducting patrols.
‘We are exceptionally thankful to the small number of Victoria Police officers who came forward and are willing to provide information,’ an organiser said.
It comes a day after up to 150 protesters descended on Elwood and Elsternwick Park in Brighton on Saturday, resulting in 21 fines and 16 arrests.
The encrypted messages are being used to announce the ‘flash protests’ and to attempt to avoid police finding out the location of the planned rally
Melbourne remains in a Stage Four lockdown, meaning residents cannot leave their houses without a valid reason, and restrictions are in place to limit movement more than 5km from a person’s home.
The restrictions and both a State of Emergency and State of Disaster have been extended a further four weeks.
Multiple rallies have taken place in Melbourne over the past few weekends, with Victoria police responding with a heavy presence – handing out dozens of fines and making arrests.
Victoria recorded 14 new cases and five deaths on Sunday, the lowest daily increase since June and the tenth day in a row the state has recorded a daily infections increase below 50.