NEWS
03/09/2020 11:07 AM AEST

Australian Woman's Livestreamed Arrest Over Planned Lockdown Protest Goes Viral

Some were disgusted by Zoe Buhler's arrest for incitement, while others pointed out that her event promoted 'right-wing causes'.

Zoe Buhler Facebook
Zoe Buhler was arrested in front of her partner and children. Detective Adrian Smith, right, charged Buhler with incitement.

The world has reacted to a Facebook Live video of a woman being arrested in her home in Victoria for allegedly promoting an upcoming protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

The livestream, which had been viewed 5.3 million times by Thursday morning, shows police entering a Ballarat home with a search warrant and handcuffing 28-year-old Zoe Buhler in front of her children and partner. 

After the police tell Buhler she is being arrested for incitement, she becomes distressed and tells them she is pregnant. Her partner continues to film while police handcuff Buhler.  

“My two kids are here. I have an ultrasound in an hour. I’m happy to delete the post,” she tells police in the footage. 

“I don’t really understand what I’ve done wrong. This is ridiculous. I didn’t realise I was doing anything wrong.”

“It’s in relation to a Facebook post, in relation to a lockdown protest you put on for Saturday,” arresting Detective Adrian Smith explains to Buhler.

In disbelief, Buhler’s partner calls the ordeal “unfair” and adds that “she just made a post.” 

Watch the video below: 

What Was The Charge?

As well as confiscating devices in the house, Detective Smith charged Buhler with incitement, which is defined by the Oxford Languages Dictionary as “the action of provoking unlawful behaviour or urging someone to behave unlawfully.”

The since-deleted Facebook event in question was dubbed “Freedom Day” and called for a “peaceful protest” to rally against Melbourne’s Stage Four restrictions. 

Victoria’s capital Melbourne is in its fifth week of a six-week lockdown, with people ordered to stay home unless they are shopping for food or essential items, receiving medical care, engaging in daily exercise or working if they can’t do so from their house. There is a curfew, and masks are mandatory in public. Authorities are scheduled to detail a timetable for easing curbs on Sunday.

Strict lockdown measures have helped ease the daily rise of coronavirus infections in Victoria after the state hit a one-day high of more than 700 cases in July. Authorities said on Thursday 15 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours and there have been 113 new daily infections.

While it is unclear how many people RSVP’d to the “Freedom Day” event, regional Victoria is under Stage Three restrictions, meaning residents can only be outside with one other person from their home. 

“Victoria Police is aware of a prohibited gathering which is planned for Ballarat on Saturday,” Victoria Police told HuffPost Australia in a statement, adding they will “not hesitate” to fine people $1,652 for breaching lockdown measures. 

“Police executed a search warrant at a Miners Rest address this afternoon and a mobile device was seized,” the statement read. 

“As a result, a 28-year old female has been charged with the offence of incitement and has been bailed to appear at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on 25 January, 2021.” 

Global Backlash

Some on Twitter called the arrest Australia’s “shame of the nation,” compared Australia to the Middle East, and tweeted that “Black Lives Matter protesters can gather without fear of punishment, but a pregnant mom gets arrested for posting about a peaceful lockdown protest.”

Others said it was “absurd” that the same figures who blasted the Black Lives Matter protests were lauding a protest by a middle-class white person.   

The livestream has received national press coverage, including from USA Today, TVNZ, and The Sun.