A Wollongong man charged over his attendance at an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney at the weekend says he is now too frightened to leave his house, after court and media attention saw him dubbed "the poster boy for the biggest idiot in Australia".
A Newscorp photographer captured 20-year-old Nikola Dedovic on Saturday as he became one of 35 people arrested in wild scenes that have prompted widespread fury and warnings from the police commissioner.
Granted bail on Sunday on condition he comply with public health orders and avoid unauthorised public gatherings, Dedovic told the Mercury he wouldn't be going anywhere. "I'm scared to leave my house," he said. "Everyone's going to think of me as being the poster boy for Australia's biggest idiot".
Dedovic told the Illawarra Mercury he would plead not guilty to charges of assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and public health violation.
Has closed his Instagram account after his picture appeared on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph and Sydney media quoted his lawyer, Martin Zanolla referring to him as "the posterboy for the biggest idiot in Australia", during a bail application at Parramatta Local Court on Sunday.
Dedovic, who runs his own industrial cleaning company, said he had been without income since the introduction of stricter lockdown measures last week. He said his mother's Wollongong business had been a permanent casualty of lockdown.
"My mother's coffee shop had to be shut down. She's heartbroken. We went back to work, we just started to get back on our feet again and now we've collapsed again," he said. "I've lost work, my mum's shop has been closed down, my dad's out of work, my grandparents are out of work - a large percentage of the population's out of work and we're struggling."
"I'm not selfish, I'm all about the people; I put myself last. It's just the majority of the population is fed up with it [lockdown], but most of them are too scared to speak out."
Dedovic said he would not take a COVID-19 test, despite having been at a potential super-spreader event.
"How come no one knows anyone who got the virus?" he said. "If I heard of at least one person who got the virus, then I'd be happy to take on the vaccine and tests and whatever."
Asked whether he would take a vaccine, he replied, "no comment".
Meantime, police have called on anyone who recognised participants at Wollongong's own protest event to make a report to Crime Stoppers. More than 200 people marched from Flagstaff Hill on Saturday in an event drummed up on social media. A handful of fines were issued but more may follow, according to a NSW Police spokesperson.
"Police identified the main protestors and organisers and the appropriate action was taken against them," the spokesperson said.
"Officers issued five PINs throughout the operation for breaches of the Public Health Order.
"The majority of others who took part complied with move-on directions."
"Investigations remain underway to identify more of those involved and further action is likely. Police would like to appeal to the community to contact Crime Stoppers with any information they have."
Police say "an appropriate contingent" of uniformed and plain-clothes officers patrolled the event, in line with intelligence received in the lead-up. Police have confired there was no application received to hold the rally, making the protest unauthorised.
Wollongong Police District Commander Evan Quarmby said: "our message is clear: we'll continue to fine those people who selfishly disregard the rules and put others at risk."