A 28-year-old pregnant Australian woman said Thursday she was not aware she had broken any law before she was handcuffed and led away by authorities for allegedly inciting activists to demonstrate against COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdown orders.
Zoe Buhler’s partner helped to livestream her Wednesday arrest at her home in the Victoria state city of Ballarat where she lives with her two young children.
The video — which she offered to remove — has since been viewed millions of times, drawing criticism from both sides of the aisle.
She has been bailed to appear at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Jan. 25, 2021, 7 News reported Wednesday.
“The police could have given me a phone call and said: ‘Look, you need to take down your event or you could be charged with a crime,’ and I would have done that,” she told reporters Thursday.
“It could have been as simple as that. You know, I’m not someone that would, you know, ever commit a crime or anything like that,” Buhler said.
“Now is not the time to protest about anything,” State Premier Daniel Andrews said in response to the incident. “Because to do so is not safe.”
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius defended the move, saying cuffing the mother was “entirely reasonable” while noting that the optics of arresting a pregnant woman are “terrible.”
Victoria law enforcement also arrested three men in Melbourne on similar charges over the weekend.
Victoria is currently Australia’s coronavirus hot spot. The capital city of Melbourne has been under stringent lockdown orders since early August amidst a second wave of the virus.
On Tuesday, the state government announced it would extend its state of emergency measures — which have lowered case numbers in recent days — for another six months.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported that Australia now has 26,049 confirmed COVID-19 infections with almost 700 deaths.