A coronavirus conspiracist who filmed police breaking down his door in a dramatic arrest on Friday has been charged in relation to his alleged involvement in a planned protest against Melbourne’s lockdown laws.
In a Facebook Live stream James Bartolo, 27, filmed officers arriving at his Taylors Hill home on Friday morning, informing him they had a search warrant and asking for him to open the door.
Mr Bartolo says to the officers they don’t have authorisation to be on his property.
“You are illegally trespassing and you will be charged,” he shouts down from his balcony.
Remonstrating officers inform Mr Bartolo they will be left with no choice but to forcefully enter his home if he does not comply.
An argument ensues and Bartolo tells officers he was on the toilet when they arrived, having “just got up” for the day.
“What’s this in regards to? You haven’t told me anything,” Bartolo is heard saying, with an officer replying “incitement”, telling him he had spoken to his colleagues online.
“I told them not to go to the protest,” Bartolo claimed, refusing to meet officers at the door in favour of continuing their discussion over the balcony.
“Explain, just talk to me properly, what is going on? You’ve just rocked up with force, early in the morning. Can you just explain? And then I will open the door,” Bartolo says.
An officer once again informs him if he doesn’t comply, they will force entry into his home.
“Hold on, what’s it to do with though? What have I done?,” he says, disagreeing with an officer who says he had already been informed of why they were there.
His video then shows an officer approach his front door with a device, and he is heard threatening to take all members to court if damage is done.
The sound of his front door being forcibly opened is then heard, with Bartolo expressing his distress at his property being damaged.
Shaky footage showed him running downstairs where he is confronted by officers inside his home who rush in to grab Mr Bartolo and place him under arrest.
The 27-year-old has been charged with incitement, possession of prohibited weapons and two counts of resisting police.
Swords seized during police arrest
Police said they seized five samurai swords at the home, as well as a mobile phone and laptops. Mr Bartolo is due in court in May next year.
He is the fourth man to be arrested for incitement over the planned Freedom Day rally on Saturday at inner-city Melbourne locations, including the Shrine Of Remembrance.
In two update videos shared later on Friday, Mr Bartolo told his audience he was OK following the confrontation and called on people to not attend the protest planned for Saturday.
He told followers attending the rally that would be “the worst possible thing to do”.
“It’s a setup, it’s always been a setup from the get-go. Terrible day, terrible location, it’s all just terrible. Don’t go to that one. That’s all I’m going to say,” he said.
“Daniel Andrews will then just blame the protest for the lockdown extension. Don’t go to the protest so he’s got nothing to blame, and then let him release his roadmap on Sunday.”
Premier backs police to stop protests
Mr Bartolo operates a conspiracy website and Facebook page named The Conscious Truth Network.
A livestream of her arrest went viral, with millions of views and media coverage across the globe.
Police have vowed to stop the protests going ahead, given they breach Melbourne's stage-four restrictions and the stage-three rules for regional Victoria, and the premier is backing them.
"You can't ignore the reality you're in and give yourself a leave pass and go and do something that, in all likelihood, will contribute to the spread of this (virus)," Mr Andrews said.
"That's not safe, not smart, not lawful and Victoria Police will do whatever they have to do, within a framework of course, of being proportionate and fair."
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