‘No regrets’: Charge dropped against mother accused of lockdown rally incitement

A woman arrested when she was pregnant over accusations she incited others to protest at an anti-lockdown rally says she has “no regrets” after the prosecution against her was withdrawn.

Zoe Buhler faced Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where a single charge of incitement was struck out because police said it was not in the public interest to continue the case.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Zoe Buhler, who was arrested and handcuffed for encouraging an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, and Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius.

Police had alleged the mother used social media in September 2020 to organise and promote a “freedom day” protest in Ballarat that contravened the government’s COVID-19 health directives.

Footage of Buhler being arrested while pregnant and wearing pyjamas at her Miners Rest home was shared widely online.

Speaking outside the courthouse after Tuesday’s hearing, Buhler said she was relieved the matter was over but hoped to one day see Premier Daniel Andrews “held accountable for his actions”.

She also flagged possible civil action after being arrested while pregnant.

“I definitely have no regrets,” she said. “I’m glad I stood up for people’s human rights and freedoms. I’m glad that it is all over.”

Buhler was due to contest the case over three days this week, challenging the lawfulness of the police search on her home, but the charge was struck out on the first day.

Tens of thousands of dollars were crowdfunded to pay for her defence.

Buhler was one of a handful of Victorians charged with inciting others to attend anti-lockdown protests in Ballarat and at various locations in Melbourne in August and September 2020.

At the time of her arrest, the Victorian Bar expressed concern over the police enforcement – both in arresting her and handcuffing her – believing it appeared disproportionate to the threat she presented.

But Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius maintained that officers were doing what was required to stop protests. He said he was satisfied the treatment of Buhler was appropriate in the circumstances.

Victoria Police confirmed the single charge of incitement was withdrawn against a 30-year-old Miners Rest woman.

“This follows an individual assessment of the case where it was determined that it was not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution,” a spokeswoman said.

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