Lilyfield venue Le Montage pulls plug on anti-vax 'freedom ball'

Leading inner west venue pulls plug on anti-vax 'freedom ball'

A premier events venue in Lilyfield has pulled the plug on an anti-vax 'Freedom Ball' event which was planned to be held there on Wednesday night in line with restrictions lifting for the unvaccinated in NSW.

Promoting the event at Le Montage on YouTube, organiser Simeon Boikov, leader of pro-Putin Russian nationalist group the Australian Cossacks, said the event was to celebrate the end of "imprisonment and apartheid" under COVID-19 restrictions.

United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly, who resigned from the Liberal party earlier this year following controversial Facebook posts spreading misinformation about COVID-19, was one of the guest speakers set to appear at the event.

But less than a day out, the ball was cancelled after Le Montage decided they would no longer be willing to host it citing concerns for the safety of venue staff and guests.

A spokesperson for Navarra venues, the group who manage Le Montage,told Inner West Review they were not aware of the event's intention when it was booked.

"Unbeknownst to the staff at Navarra, the motivation behind this event was to be an anti-vaccination political rally event from the 'freedom movement'," the spokesperson said.

"Upon learning the purpose of the event and the intentions of the hosts and guests, along with the rising number of current COVID-19 cases, Navarra made the decision to cancel the event."

We feel that this event is not a reflection of our company values as we endeavour to keep the community and our staff safe

Navarra Venues

As of Wednesday, proof of vaccination is no longer required to enter most venues in NSW including pubs, bars and restaurants. Proof of vaccination is still required to attend an indoor music festival with more than 1000 people, at airports and in specific workplaces.

The lifting of restrictions comes as NSW confirms 1360 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number recorded since September.

The cancelled event which cost $500 a ticket - although apparently only 10 sold and the rest were given away- was to celebrate the lifting of restrictions for the unvaccinated. The Navarro spokesperson said they were unsure how many people were set to attend, but there was capacity for 300-500 people.

"Join us for a celebration of freedom in the federal electorate of Reid," advertising for the event read, despite Lilyfield being in the electoral division of Grayndler. "This is your opportunity to spend a night with some of Australia's favourite personalities of the freedom movement".

Alongside Mr Kelly, the lineup of guest speakers also included anti-vaccination social media influencers Monica Smit and Maria Zee, and controversial Melbourne-based right-wing commentator Avi Yemini.

Despite claims by Mr Boikov the venue had been pressured by police to shut the event down, NSW Police say they contacted and visited the venue as part of routine police work and the venue itself decided not to go ahead with hosting the event.

"While Navarra respects the opinions and freedoms of all, we feel that this event is not a reflection of our company values as we endeavour to keep the community and our staff safe as we navigate these unprecedented times coming out of COVID -19 restrictions," the spokesperson said.

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