A coronavirus conspiracy leader has been dramatically arrested a day before anti-lockdown protests his group promoted were to hit Melbourne’s streets.
James Bartolo was detained at his Melbourne home on Friday morning after four policemen knocked down his door when he refused to open it.
The former bodybuilder was handcuffed on his lounge room floor in a struggle seconds after police broke inside.
He is expected to be the fifth protest organiser charged with incitement after a series of posts and videos on Thursday night.
Former bodybuilder James Bartolo is a key figure in conspiracy theory circles, holding talks on many subjects and organising followers. He has been arrested for incitement
Bartolo filmed the two detectives and two uniformed officers from his balcony as they arrived at his unit with a search warrant.
He told them they didn’t have authorisation to be on the property, despite the warrant stating they could enter by force if necessary.
‘You are illegally trespassing and you will be charged. If you break anything you will be prosecuted,’ he shouted at the officers.
However, the lead detective was in no mood to entertain Bartolo’s bizarre pseudo-legal beliefs that police don’t have power over him.
‘Open the door or I’ll force it, I’m not playing a game,’ he called out.
‘You’ve had all the opportunity in the world, James, are you going to come open the door, yes or no?’
Bartolo filmed the two detectives and two uniformed officers from his balcony as they arrived at his unit with a search warrant, and bashed down hs door when he wouldn’t open it
Bartolo ran downstairs as the banging at the door got louder, arriving just as police swarmed into his unit. He was then arrested in a struggle on his lounge room floor
Bartolo protested that he was on the toilet when the officers knocked on his door, and demanded they tell him what was going on.
He still refused as they tried to explain he was suspected of incitement, which he denied, saying he told people not to go to the protest.
‘Leave my s**t, don’t break my stuff you f**king r****ds,’ he yelled as police began to break down his door with a battering ram.
Bartolo ran downstairs as the banging at the door got louder, arriving just as police swarmed into his unit.
Officers yelled at him to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back as they grabbed and handcuffed him.
Bartolo runs the Conscious Truth Network group on Facebook which is a hub for a long list of conspiracy theories.
Planned ‘Freedom Day’ protests on Saturday are regularly discussed and promoted by Bartolo and his disciples on the group page.
Contrary to Bartolo’s claims that he told people not to attend Saturday’s protest, a video on Thursday night said the opposite.
‘I suggest if you’re thinking of going or not going… just f**king go,’ he said.
In the same video he gave protesters tips on how to conduct themselves on Saturday, including to avoid police and be compliant.
Bartolo claimed to not be involved in actually organising the protest, which he said was planned ‘terribly’ and following ones needed to be done a lot better.
James Bartolo, from Melbourne, launched Facebook group The Conscious Truth Network on June 1
He then showed a map of Melbourne with the planned protest site of the Shrine of Remembrance, which he thinks will be so packed with police no one will get in.
Instead, he said he would be ‘keeping a safe distance from police at all times’ and protesting in other areas.
‘I don’t want to meet them, I don’t want to go talk to them, and I’d recommend no one does that, because they’re probably not going to be very nice on the day,’ he said.
Bartolo then drew a line on the map of where he thinks he will walk from the Shrine across the CBD, staying 100m away from police at all times.
He told viewers that if they were corned by police to be peacefully arrested and get people to film it.
‘I got arrested at the first protest, handcuffs were on, they put me in the van for three minutes, got my name and details and let me go,’ he said.
‘But when people start resisting and fighting back, that’s when people get hurt,’ he said.
‘I know it’s very frustrating to comply with f**king tyranny, but we want to be as effective as possible, we want to make them look as stupid as possible.
‘We want to look peaceful and wake up as many people as possible and get them to these protests and future protests and on our side against this tyrannical force posing as a government.’
Bartolo discussed confusion and debate within the conspiracy community about whether to postpone the protest or push ahead.
He said the postponement talk was because lockdown was to end on September 13, but then the draft roadmap was leaked saying it would be extended.
He said the thinking was now that public opinion was now more supportive because lockdown extended.
‘Well f**k it, let’s go on the 5th… I’m not saying let’s because I’m not an organiser, I’m going on the 5th,’ he said.
Hours later he posted another video saying he was still going to the protest, but a better-organised event had been created anonymously for September 13.
‘I think doing it on the 13th when the roadmap is properly revealed is a lot, lot better idea, but still going to go to the 5th,’ he said.
Bartolo encouraged everyone attending the later protest to in the next week acquire a Guy Fawkes mask or one with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ face.
Conscious Truth Network reveals Bartolo believes the Moon landing was faked, vaccines are harmful, and laundry list of more than 20 other bizarre beliefs.
His frequent videos question whether coronavirus is infectious and call the pandemic a scam aimed at bringing about a cashless society.
Bartolo made headlines in July when he was pulled over at a lockdown checkpoint and argued with police for 20 minutes about the legality of the operation, using the infamous script.
He then claimed COVID-19 was not contagious and refused to hand over his licence.
Mr Bartolo went on to begin ranting about the officers’ role in facilitating the COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria.
‘Do you know the virus isn’t actually contagious?’ he asked. ‘That has been scientifically proven.
‘This whole COVID-19 is a f**king hoax. It’s a scam.’
Bartolo in July called Prime Minister Scott Morrison a ‘dictator’ for imposing lockdowns and other restrictions during the pandemic.
‘Forcing someone to do something they don’t want is raping their freedom. He is the furthest thing from a true leader,’ he said in a video.
‘It has also been proven that this virus is not contagious. If it was, then by God there would be an extraordinarily higher amount of cases.’
Mr Bartolo runs The Conscious Truth Network, a hardcore conspiracy Facebook group that’s about page reveals he believes the Moon landing was faked, vaccines are harmful, and laundry list of more than 20 other bizarre beliefs
Bartolo has used the Conscious Truth Network to solicit donations and charge $50 for a seven-day course to transform them into ‘truth advocates’.
The week-long program teaches them how to make their own videos and become ‘voices of reason’ in their communities and online.
‘We are at war,’ he says, in a video posted in the group promoting his course.
‘So how are we going to win this? I’m just one person. That’s why I think it is so important to get as many people as people using their platform.’
‘That’s why I have created this confidence challenge. Don’t worry about the haters, there is no saving them.’
He also has a merchandise store selling hoodies, singlets and T-shirts emblazoned with the Conscious Truth Network name and logo.
Bartolo has called on his more than 3,800 followers to participate in a week-long program to learn how to make their own videos and become ‘voices of reason’ in their communities and online
Bartolo describes himself as a ‘truth seeker’ and ‘freedom fighter’ on his personal website that presents him as a near-messianic figure.
‘I have always known there was something terribly wrong with the world and from a very young age was certain I would have an impact in fixing this broken planet,’ it reads.
‘My personal mission is to help wake people up and the together we can serve justice to the corrupt, twisted and sick individuals, corporations and entities who have caused such massive harm to the people of this world.
‘After justice has been delivered, then we can focus on creating the world we are all happy to live in peacefully together.’