Australian journalist Avi Yemini has attracted over $50,000 in donations to help cover the cost of a lawsuit filed against the Victorian government in the state’s Supreme Court on Sept. 15.
The fundraiser was launched by his employer, Rebel News, on Sept. 17 and surpassed its $50,000 goal within 6 hours.
Yemini told The Epoch Times on Sept. 17 that he was humbled by the public’s response.
“It shows how upset people are with what’s happening here in Melbourne,” Yemini said.
For the past few months, Melbourne has endured a second wave of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
In response to the outbreak, the state government has enforced strict lockdown rules that have raised concerns around heavy-handed policing, the mental wellbeing of Victorians, and the legality of the curfews.
Discontent about lockdown measures has grown in recent weeks after the Victorian government extended its emergency powers in September for an additional six months and extended stage four restrictions by two weeks.
On Sept. 5, Melbournians gathered for a rally against the Stage Four lockdown at Albert Park. The gathering was then disrupted by Victoria Police, and Yemini, who was there working as a reporter, was arrested.
Victoria Police confirmed Yemini’s arrest in a statement, saying: “A 34-year-old male from Berwick was arrested for hindering police at a protest in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday 5 September.
“The man had been asked to move on multiple times by the Forward Commander as he was obstructing the police response to the protest. After repeatedly failing to comply with police direction, he was arrested for hindering police. He was then released with enquiries pending,” the statement read.
Yemini denies that he was acting unlawfully and that police did not tell him to move on. He said that his case is clear cut and indicated he is confident that there wasn’t much chance of losing.
“The commander initially said he was arresting me because I didn’t have a ‘purposeful reason’ to be there, which was false,” Yemini said. “So they changed it to hindering which was just as ludicrous.”
Ezra Levant, the publisher of Rebel News, told The Epoch Times the video clearly shows police misconduct.
“The videotape shows that Avi was not hindering any police work; he was with other media, and no police asked him to move,” Levant said.
On the Rebel News donation site, Avi wrote: “I was reporting on an anti-lockdown protest by Australian citizens fed up with China-style infringements on their civil liberties.
“Suddenly, a police commander walked up to me, jabbed me in the chest, and ordered his troops to arrest me. You’ve probably seen the video—I was picked up, smashed to the ground and arrested, and led away in handcuffs. For no reason whatsoever,” he wrote.
In a Statement of Claim for the lawsuit, Yemini alleges that police officers arrested him while he was performing his work as a journalist without sufficiently explaining the basis for the arrest at the time, only later telling him the reason was for allegedly hindering police.
Yemini alleges in his lawsuit that as a result of the arrest he suffered physical injury, stress and anxiety, affected reputation, humiliation, hypervigilance and consciousness of surveillance of his home, and effects on his family life.