Notorious Quebec COVID-19 protester found guilty in court over grocery store incident
One of Montreal’s most notorious opponents of the COVID-19 vaccine and other public health rules was found guilty this afternoon, in municipal court, of obstructing police.
The charge stems from a series of incidents at a Maxi grocery store in Ville Saint-Laurent, where Francois Amalega Bitondo entered the store several times in a row without a mask.
Bitondo, who represented himself in court, made a fiery final address to the courts, claiming the province will face even more radicalized anti-vax activists in the future.
"I’m one of the most reasonable among the opponents," Bitondo told the judge. "There are people far less reasonable who will carry out much more serious actions."
On the day of the incident that landed Bitondo in court, the manager ordered him to leave, but Bitondo kept re-entering the store to make minor purchases without his mask. Police were eventually called.
Montreal police [SPVM] officers spent an hour explaining him he was no longer allowed in, the court heard. But Bitondo, a former mathematics teacher, walked right back into the store.
When police tried to place him under arrest for trespassing, he resisted, and the officers had to call for back-up, they said.
He was released with a summons to appear in court and also got two $1,500 tickets for not following the mask rule.
Bitondo refused to be represented by a lawyer. He spent much of his time in court arguing that the sanitary rules were illegal and unconstitutional, even arguing the province should compensate him for denying his freedom.
Among other claims, he called the masks dangerous to his health and accused public health director Horacio Arruda of being the high priest of a religion.
In later comments, Bitondo tried to convince the judge he was a modern-day freedom fighter, dropping the names of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and even Gandhi, because, he said, he had taken on the burden to fight for basic rights.
Justice Randall Richmond stopped him in his tracks at that point, calling his comparisons outrageously exaggerated.
He ultimately found Bitondo guilty on the charge of obstruction but agreed with the prosecution’s suggestion not to impose additional jail time. He sentenced Bitondo to a one-year suspended sentence, with the obligation to keep the peace and not return to the Maxi store.
The judge expressed frustration that Bitondo was not even repentant, saying he's likely to reoffend because, after all, he's promised to resume his crusade.
Bitondo still has numerous pending court cases. He recently bragged that he’s received nearly $40,000 worth of fines since the beginning of the pandemic.