Australian law enforcers have arrested an expectant mother for allegedly planning a protest against the Covid-19 lockdown in the state of Victoria, drawing ire and accusations of thought policing online.
The Victoria Police descended on the woman’s house earlier in the day, presenting a search warrant and accusing her of “incitement” – ostensibly by making a Facebook post calling for a socially distanced rally against the quarantine measures across the state.
Videos of the 28-year-old – dressed in pajamas and visibly caught off-guard by the police intrusion – were widely shared on social media, showing her flanked and confronted by officers. One of them claims she broke the law “in relation to a Facebook post [and] in relation to the anti-lockdown protest,” while another puts the irons on her.
“In front of my children!” she counters, adding, “I’m happy to delete the post, this is ridiculous.” The woman also pleads with the officer to let her undergo a scheduled ultrasound scan, but those words appear to fall on deaf ears.
Those viewing and sharing the video seemed to be astonished at the reason for the 28-year-old’s arrest. Some enraged online commentators went as far as to call it “full-blown fascism in Australia,” while others referred to Orwellian narratives.
“Free speech is dead in Australia,” one proclaimed, calling officers a “thought police unit.”
As the day progressed, local media suggested the woman was organizing a “Freedom Day” protest rally on Facebook, scheduled to take place on Saturday. Now, she will have to stand trial at the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court in January next year.
Meanwhile, a controversial Liberal Party backbencher Craig Kelly, who staunchly opposes the lockdown, shared the video, saying it was “what you’d expect to see in Nazi Germany.”
The story comes as anti-lockdown sentiment, in response to the restrictions being heavy-handedly enforced across Melbourne and Victoria, is gaining traction. This weekend, a sizable cohort of protesters defied social distancing and mask-wearing rules. At one point, the gatherings descended into chaos and clashes with police, who made dozens of arrests.
Victoria’s lockdown measures involve a nighttime curfew, enforced by police. During the day, residents are only allowed to go outside for limited shopping, exercise, working, or seeing a doctor.
Australia’s coronavirus tally is approaching 26,000; at least 663 Covid-19 patients have succumbed to the disease as of Wednesday. The lingering coronavirus epidemic has taken a toll on the Australian economy and jobs, with officials previously admitting the country has now entered a recession.