Cops arrest conspiracy theorist ‘on toilet’

A major player in Melbourne’s anti-coronavirus conspiracy theorist movement has been dramatically arrested over allegedly inciting an illegal protest.

James Bartolo claimed he “was on the toilet” when police arrived at his home armed with a search warrant on Friday morning.

He refused to open the door and let them inside, so police smashed it open and tackled him to the ground to restrain him.

Mr Bartolo, who runs a conspiracy website called The Conscious Truth Network, is the latest to be arrested over allegedly inciting an illegal anti-lockdown protest planned for Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday.

Mr Bartolo livestreamed his arrest on Facebook, which showed him arguing with police and claiming they didn’t have “authorisation to be on the property”.

Police assured him they did in a back-and-forth lasting about three minutes, which ended when Mr Bartolo was tackled to the ground and handcuffed inside his living room.

“Open the door or we’ll force it,” one of the detectives can be heard saying in the footage.

“You said you’re coming down, you’re not.”

Police could also be heard yelling “stop resisting” as he was arrested.

Mr Bartolo claimed police were illegally trespassing and he would press charges if they entered, as he argued with them from his upstairs balcony.

He also claimed he told people not to go to the protest, which is at odds with his latest Facebook post that says: “5th of sep protest go ahead.”

He also created a poll asking his followers if it should be held on another day, and voted himself to postpone the protest.

Mr Bartolo has previously uploaded a video of himself arguing with officers for 20 minutes at one of Melbourne’s coronavirus roadblocks about whether their actions were legal.

He previously encouraged Melburnians in stage-three lockdown to breach checkpoints, arguing they are a violation of human rights.

He regularly shares videos claiming the pandemic is a hoax and questioning whether COVID-19 is actually infectious, as well as pushing 5G conspiracies.

The Conscious Truth Network Facebook page has more than 4000 followers.

Victoria Police has been contacted for comment.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said on Thursday police had so far charged four people with incitement over Saturday’s planned protest, including pregnant Miners Rest woman Zoe Buhler, reality TV contestant turned conspiracist Fanos Panayides and 76-year-old Windsor man Solihin Millin twice.

Mr Cornelius said anyone who left home to protest would be fined and arrested if they failed to comply with police directions.

Those charged with incitement face court-imposed fines of up to $20,000.

jack.paynter@news.com.au

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