BALLARAT—On Wednesday, September 2, Australian police arrested a woman after she created a “freedom day” event on Facebook calling to protest against the Victorian government’s COVID-19 lockdown measures.
The since deleted Facebook post stated: “As some of you may have seen the government has gone to extreme measures and are using scare tactics through the media to prevent the Melbourne protest. Here in Ballarat we can be a voice for those in stage four lockdowns. We can be seen and heard and hopefully make a difference!”
Zoe Buhler, 28, who is pregnant, was arrested and handcuffed in front of her partner and children. The incident was live streamed on Facebook by her partner and has amassed over 10 million views.
In the livestream, Buhler says, “I have no idea why you guys are doing this… My two kids are here. I have an ultrasound in an hour. I’m happy to delete the post… I don’t really understand what I’ve done wrong. This is ridiculous. I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong.”
Buhler also said that she did not think she was “breaking any laws.”
Detective Adrian Smith, who was in charge of the arrest, replied: “You are actually. You are breaking the law. That’s why I’m arresting you. It’s in relation to a Facebook post.”
In a statement, the Victoria police said “any gathering of this nature is in blatant breach of the chief health officer’s directions and puts Victorian lives at risk. Victoria police has already taken action as part of an ongoing investigation into the planning and encouragement of protest activity in Ballarat. Those still thinking of attending the protest in Ballarat on Saturday can expect a swift and firm response from police.”
On Facebook, liberal party backbench MP Craig Kelly, a vocal opponent of lockdown laws, called the incident “what you’d expect to see in Nazi Germany.”
“Every politician that voted for laws that allows a pregnant mother to be handcuffed for a Facebook post (that criticizes government policy) stands condemned for eternity,” Kelly added.
Buhler was charged with incitement, and her computer and phone were seized by police. She was released on bail to face Ballarat Magistrates Court on January 25, 2021.
Victoria police have also arrested other lockdown protesters. James Bartolo of The Conscious Truth Network was arrested on incitement charges, like Buhler, after police used a battering ram to smash into his house.
On Friday, September 4, in Melbourne, nearly 300 people marched against the lockdown. Fourteen arrests were made for breaching lockdown rules and one arrest for assaulting a police officer who received lacerations to the head. Over 150 fines were issued for lockdown breaches.
Other protests took place in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.