A pregnant Australian woman was arrested for organizing an anti-lockdown event that was broadcasted via Facebook Live.
Zoe Buhler, 28, was charged with incitement, a crime in Australia that involves a person encouraging other people to break the law, according to a statement from Victoria Police, USA Today reports. The video of the woman being handcuffed and arrested went viral and has been viewed several million times. When police arrived at her home, the Australian police confiscated her family’s electronic devices.
Buhler created the event on Facebook, describing it as a protest against the region’s lockdown measures for the current #coronavirus pandemic. USA Today and other outlets report that a number of citizens have been arrested for gathering in protest of the region’s COVID-19 guidelines. “Any gathering of this nature is in blatant breach of the Chief Health Officer’s directions and puts Victorian lives at risk,” Victoria Police’s statement says. “Those still thinking of attending the protest in Ballarat on Saturday can expect a swift and firm response from police.”
Like many coronavirus conspiracy theorists, Buhler believes the pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands around the world is a “hoax.” And she described it as “the biggest hoax” on the earth during her live on Facebook and criticized the lockdowns and social distancing measures that have been put in place to curve the spread of the disease. Victoria State started a second lockdown in early August after the number of cases began to rise, and the region became a hot spot for infections in Australia. Some of the lockdown guidelines include a curfew and strict daytime hours that only allow people to leave their homes for essential reasons, such as buying food and needed services. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, people are also able to exercise and leave for work during those daytime hours.
In the video, police announce her charges to her, saying that they will be confiscating all of the devices in her home, even the ones that she may not own. The woman offers to delete the post and says, “I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong.” However, the officer says that it is too late as the offense has already happened. The woman who was in the city of Ballarat initially questioned what the arrest was for, and the officer responded: “It’s in relation to a Facebook post, in relation to a lockdown protest you put on just that day.” The woman then said, “My two kids are here – I have an ultrasound in an hour. This is ridiculous… I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong.”
In response to the woman’s arrest, Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch said, “Arresting people pre-emptively for the act of organizing peaceful protests or for social media posts is something that happens all too often under authoritarian regimes, and it should not be happening in a democracy like Australia.” Individuals can face fines of A$1,652 (£910; $1,210) for breaking guidelines and restrictions, and could be imprisoned for serious breaths, BBC reports.