Zoe-Lee Buhler of Victoria, Australia, is pregnant. She has lost her job thanks to Australia’s coronavirus lockdowns. She’s tired of the economic uncertainty, stressed by the suicides it’s causing, and wanted to make a difference.
Buhler posted online about a silent, peaceful protest against the lockdowns coming up on Saturday.
The next thing she knew, police were at her door to arrest her while she was still in her pajamas. It turns out Australians have no explicit right to protest, even peacefully, against government actions they oppose.
Buhler filmed the arrest and posted that video on Facebook. After her arrest, she spoke to media.
Speaking to reporters outside her home this morning, Ms Buhler claimed she “didn’t realise” the protest wasn’t allowed.
“I was aware that the protest coming up in Melbourne wasn‘t permitted … but we’re in Stage 3 lockdown,” she said.
“I had a bit of a bimbo moment.”
Buhler is charged with incitement, despite the fact that the protest is billed as peaceful. Protests against the lockdown have typically been peaceful. The protesters just want to get back to normal life and work.
She is banned from Facebook as one of the conditions of her bail, further curtailing her ability to speak out. Her life is pretty well upended, for doing something we Americans do as a matter of routine: question and object to things our government does.
It turns out, once again, the founders of the United States were far ahead of their time.
Australians have no explicit right to protest their government at all. It’s not in their constitution.
This has led to a series of court cases that have uncovered an “implied” right to protest. But it’s very unclear where the lines and limits are.
To be fair, the lines and limits of protest in the United States get blurred too. But that can usually be chalked up to ignorance of the Constitution or to bad faith on the part of some elected officials, not the document itself.
We have media figures such as CNN’s Chris Cuomo who think violent protest is fine. Months ago Cuomo questioned, on the air, where the law says protests must be peaceful.
Some random guy eating dry ramen noodles on YouTube had to remind Cuomo that the Constitution actually does clearly state that legal protest in the U.S. must be peaceful.
In Oregon, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt (D) has made it his official policy to allow even violent protesters to go on violently protesting and rioting, destroying property and the like. This bad faith policy puts rioters back on Portland’s streets night after night to riot and destroy the city over and over again. Schmidt, who was elected by the voters to fairly enforce the law and is supported by the likes of Shaun King’s PAC, is endangering public safety for the sake of politics. One man he released who had been arrested in a riot went on to allegedly stab two people to death.
The Trump administration has found a way to short-circuit Schmidt: deputizing Oregon State Police so that when they arrest violent rioters, those arrested may face federal charges. Schmidt can’t do anything about that.
But that’s violent rioters, who, whether they’re egged on by Cuomo or allowed to riot by the local Democrat DA, are still clearly breaking the law and stepping outside the First Amendment’s protest protection.
If Buhler was an American, her post would have violated no law here. The First Amendment saw forward and anticipated that tyrants would curtail the right to free speech and peaceful protest if such protest inconveniences them. Just imagine how Nancy Pelosi would love to lock up anyone criticizing her today.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
“…peaceably assemble…” It’s right there in the text, as the ramen guy saliently pointed out.
Australians don’t have that right. Its constitution doesn’t spell it out clearly. Most people around the world don’t have the right to peacefully protest spelled out.
Our founders were geniuses.