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Police break down door of conspiracist accused of inciting anti-lockdown protest

He refuses to open the door and insists the police do not have “authorisation to be on the property”, repeatedly asking: “What have I done?”

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“Can you just explain and I will open the door,” Mr Bartolo says. “What are you suspecting me of doing?”

A police officer tells him they have evidence he was “speaking to his colleagues online” about Saturday’s scheduled “Freedom Day” protest.

“I am not playing a game,” a police officer tells Mr Bartolo.

“Come down … I’ve given you all the opportunity in the world.”

The standoff ends when police use a battering ram to break down Mr Bartolo’s front door.

In the video, Mr Bartolo can be seen running down the stairs before officers tackle him to the ground and arrest him on the floor of his living room.

Police enter James Bartolo's home after breaking down the door.

Police enter James Bartolo’s home after breaking down the door.Credit:Twitter

Protests planned in capital cities around the country on Saturday have been touted as “Freedom Day” rallies, although prominent voices in the anti-lockdown movement including former My Kitchen Rules host Pete Evans are now calling for Melbourne’s demonstration to be postponed.

Police arrested pregnant Ballarat woman Zoe Buhler on Wednesday and charged her with incitement. The young pregnant mother was handcuffed in front of her children while telling police she would remove a Facebook post in which she encouraged people to attend the rally.

Footage of her arrest has sparked a debate about Victoria Police’s response to the pandemic, chiefly the planned protest.

The Victorian Bar wrote to Police Minister Lisa Neville on Thursday to raise concerns about Ms Buhler’s treatment.

President of the Victorian Bar Wendy Harris, QC, said she understood the importance of individuals adhering to the law – particularly during a pandemic – but said she was concerned that Ms Buhler’s arrest “appeared disproportionate to the threat she presented”.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said police were doing what they were required to do to stop protests and he was satisfied the treatment of Ms Buhler was appropriate in the circumstances.

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He said you would “have to have been on Mars” not to know that protesting is currently not allowed.

Opposition police spokesman David Southwick said the treatment of Ms Buhler had “deeply concerned” Victorians and contrasted it with the handling of the Black Lives Matter and construction union protests.

In another video posted on Thursday night, Mr Bartolo said he would be attending Saturday’s protest.

“I can’t encourage or recommend or suggest anyone else to go, because you’re all adults and you can make up your own mind,” he told his followers.

According to his Facebook page, Mr Bartolo moderates the QAnon conspiracy group Conscious Truth Network, where he appears in the group banner beside the words “How do we stop the cabal? Simple / Stop acquiescing!”

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