‘Sorry for my bimbo moment’: Woman apologises after being arrested live on Facebook over coronavirus lockdown post

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A Victorian woman whose live-streamed arrest for allegedly organising an anti-lockdown protest went viral has apologised for her « bimbo moment ».

Zoe Buhler said she did not realise she was doing anything wrong by starting a Facebook event asking people to meet in Ballarat, west of Melbourne, to protest against lockdown restrictions.

« Sorry about my bimbo moment, » she said this morning.

« I didn’t realise I wasn’t allowed to. »

Police arrived at the 28-year-old’s home in Ballarat on Wednesday afternoon.

Ms Buhler, who is pregnant and said she was about to attend an ultrasound, started live-streaming before she was handcuffed, read her rights and taken into custody.

« Excuse me, what on earth? » she asks in the video.

« Can you record this? I’m in my pyjamas. »

The video was viewed at least 5 million times within 24 hours of being live-streamed.

‘I was scared I was being kidnapped’

Fronting the media in her same pyjamas this morning, Ms Buhler said she was « fighting for human rights » and she created the protest event online because she was worried about the impacts of lockdown.

« I’m just a passionate person and I’m sick of the lockdown, » she said.

Regional Victoria is under stage 3 restrictions, which includes stay-at-home orders and a ban on gatherings.

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WATCH

Duration: 14 seconds
Zoe Buhler says police ‘were quite nice’ to her after her arrest.

Ms Buhler said she was in shock when police arrived at her front door.

« I do think they were too heavy handed, especially [to arrest me] in front of my children and to walk into my house like that. It did scare them, » she said.

« I was scared I was being kidnapped.

« I was just fully freaking out. »

Ms Buhler has since been charged with incitement and released on bail. She is due to appear in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court in January.

Police concede arrest was ‘terrible optics’, but above board

Ms Buhler said the police « did end up being quite nice, which wasn’t on camera », adding they allowed her to change out of her pyjamas before being taken into custody.

She said her bail conditions included not being allowed to use social media until Sunday.

« I haven’t got any of my devices back yet, » she said.

The video has sparked debate about Victoria’s use of emergency powers, with the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission expressing serious concerns about the arrest.

Commissioner Rosalind Croucher said she was dismayed by the handling of the situation and warned that human rights must be protected — even more so during a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Croucher said that while measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 were required, they must be managed appropriately and be proportionate to the risk posed to the community.

The President of the Victorian Bar, Wendy Harris QC, has written to the office of Police Minister Lisa Neville, saying she was concerned the police officers’ actions were « disproportionate to the threat » the pregnant mother-of-two presented.

Meanwhile, Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he was not in support of protests at this time, but he accused the Government of double standards.

« The Government holds up a red flag when it comes to people protesting against Daniel Andrews but they roll out the red carpet when it is Black Lives Matter protesters, » he said.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said he understood the concern expressed by some about the arrest of Ms Buhler.

But he said police were satisfied officers behaved appropriately, and Ms Buhler was only in handcuffs while police searched her home.

« In this case handcuffs were removed from that individual as soon as the premises were secured. »

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WATCH

Duration: 6 minutes 15 seconds
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius says officers acted ‘entirely reasonably’ in arresting woman.

Three charged with incitement, more curfew-breakers fined

Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said police had spoken with 80 people this week about planned protests.

Three have been charged with incitement, including one person who was re-arrested for alleged ongoing offences.

« We all look forward to the day when restrictions can be eased but if people continue to behave in ways which will spread the virus, that day will be pushed out, » he said.

« By all means, protest from home, be the keyboard warrior, say all sorts of unpleasant and uncharitable things about people who are urging you to behave sensibly and behave in the interests of the broader community.

« But do it from home.

« I hear far too often of our members out on the frontline having to go hands-on with people who are COVID-positive and themselves being exposed to this deadly virus.

He said police planned to run a significant operation this weekend to stop people from protesting, with officers to be on public transport and around Melbourne.

In the past day, Victoria Police issued 143 fines for breaches of the Chief Health Officer’s health directions, including 24 for failing to wear a face-covering.

There were 46 fines issued for curfew breaches, including a Frankston man police allege was found 10 kilometres from his house after 8:00pm, who « stated he was getting a pizza ».

A Doncaster man, who told police he was « meeting friends to go shopping » was fined on a train heading from Mooroolbark to Flinders Street Station.

Eleven fines were issued at police checkpoints, from 20,156 vehicle checks conducted.

Over the past month, police have issued more than 1,762 fines for breaking curfew, totalling more than $2.9 million in fines.

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