Australian conspiracy theorist James Bartolo, who was accused of inciting protests against Melbourne’s strict lockdown rules, was arrested on Friday. He recorded the saga live on his Facebook account.
In the two-minute video, Bartolo is seen first addressing officers from his balcony.
“What's the problem?” he asks.
The officer, who is otherwise inaudible in the video, says something about a “search warrant.”
“No, you don't have authorization to be on the property,” Bartolo says. “You are illegally trespassing and you will be charged.”
“If you do break anything you will be prosecuted,” he continues yelling from the balcony as the officers repeatedly ask him to come down.
When he asks what this is about, one of the officers can be heard saying “incitement.”
Bartolo is a moderator in the conspiracy group Conscious Truth Network, which claims on Facebook that Australia’s “deranged and unhinged political leaders are causing deliberate chaos and terror" with pandemic regulations.
When the officers finally break into his apartment, Bartolo runs downstairs, screaming, “Stop breaking my shit you fucking retard!”
As he comes down, about three officers are seen coming in through the door as he screams and resists them. The video becomes blurry in the ensuing chaos.
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The video of his arrest garnered more than 700,000 views within 21 hours of being posted. Supporters sympathized in the comments with rhetoric widely reflective of right-wing sentiments in America who have similar views about coronavirus lockdowns.
“The only thing more shameful than this arrest are the new normals defending it,” wrote one follower.
“Oh my goodness we have no rights as they have been taken from us with this state of emergency rubbish,” wrote another follower. “Wake Australia before it is too late.”
Within four hours of the original video, Bartolo posted another live video with an update that he was OK. He also asked his followers not to go to a scheduled protest on Saturday.
“It’s a trap, don’t do it,” he said.
The protest, which is illegal, has reportedly been planned to fight against Melbourne’s restriction measures under the pandemic, according to the Brisbane Times.
Bartolo has been charged with incitement, possession of weapons, and resisting police, the Times reported.
He is the fourth person to be arrested for incitement of these protests, according to ABC Australia, including one pregnant woman.
In a statement to the Times, Victoria Police said they were acting on a search warrant on Bartolo for his “the organisation and encouragement of protest activity."