As he steered his vehicle into Sault Ste. Marie on the evening of Jan. 27, Patrick King made sure to capture his homecoming moment on Facebook Live for everyone to see.
Hundreds of supporters lined the highway, cheering in the chilly darkness for King and other participants in the so-called Freedom Convoy bound for Ottawa.
There were fireworks worthy of our finest Canada Day celebrations.
There were many, many signs and banners.
And, there was the inescapable blare of horns.
As captured on his livestream, King's reaction to the triumphal entry bordered at times on rapturous bliss.
"This is all my family here, probably," he said, as the procession of transports approached the Sault.
"Fireworks! Fireworks!" King exclaimed, as pyrotechnics started to fill the sky.
"They're lighting them up! They're lighting them up! They're lighting it up! I told ya! I told ya!" King whooped.
"Wow, what a homecoming!" a woman in his vehicle responded. "I love your hometown!"
It's impossible to know how much of that enthusiasm was for the convoy and how much was for King himself, a Sault native and a key organizer of the controversial protest movement now camped in front of Parliament Hill.
What no one can dispute is that King has become a folk hero to some, both here in his hometown (where he hasn't lived for two decades) and across Canada. A public face of the trucker convoy, his Facebook page boasts more than 307,000 followers. The homecoming video alone attracted nearly 22,000 views and more than 18,000 comments, showing grassroots support from a broad range of constituencies including some local church congregations and Indigenous communities.
But in the eyes of many others, King is the furthest thing from a freedom fighter. He is a purveyor of racist conspiracy theories who has described COVID-19 a “man-made bioweapon that was put out to make people sick," and warned of an “endgame” to “depopulate the Anglo-Saxon race.”
During one livestream in December, while talking about pandemic public-health measures, King said: “The only way this is going to be solved is with bullets.”
On Friday, King's Facebook page was temporarily shut down. When it went back online later in the afternoon, he was quick to celebrate. “Look who’s back!” he yelled into his camera. “Lawyers, thank you very much.”
On his Facebook page, King describes himself as “an investigative journalist,” an obvious jab at the mainstream media. This week, he garnered international headlines from both the Associated Press and CNN, who called him out for spreading misinformation about the Ottawa Police Service.
"Fifty per cent of the Ottawa Police force have all turned in their resignation today," King said, in yet another popular video on his own Facebook page.
"Really?" someone can be heard saying in response.
"We have other police forces that have turned back and walked away from this, okay?" King continued. "So there's more things going on than everybody knows."
Founded in 1846 and widely considered one of the most trusted sources of unbiased news, the Associated Press confirmed from the Ottawa Police Association union that none of its members resigned over the local protests.
A CNN fact-checker came to the same conclusion, reporting that King "has a history of promoting conspiracy theories and other false claims."
King didn't return phone calls from either CNN or SooToday.
Last August, King was caught spreading more misinformation. He claimed that while representing himself in court, he had forced the Province of Alberta to acknowledge that COVID-19 doesn't exist, prompting a lifting of pandemic restrictions.
Peace and love
Thousands of Canadians have thrown their support behind the demonstrators who have blocked off downtown Ottawa. Many Canadians are fed up after two years of COVID lockdowns, and they don’t believe that people should be forced to abide by vaccine mandates or other public-health restrictions.
But King's social media posts sometimes hint at a darker side to his crusade — a side that has nothing to do with peace, love and unity.
Referring to more than a week of 24/7 horn-blowing and other disruptions for Ottawa residents, King just laughed and said: "Remember, these people haven't been able to sleep for 10 days. It's kind of funny. I'm not gonna lie. It's pretty hilarious."
The hilarity of that joke would no doubt be lost on people like Deana Deans, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, who described the Ottawa protests as "a nation-wide insurrection." Or Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who referred to the "most serious emergency our city has ever faced."
Older online videos show King holding forth about how the Anglo-Saxon race is being depopulated "because they have the strongest bloodline," and boasting about having a "record the size of my f*cking arm."
"I am not a nice person," he said. "I’ve had just about enough.... You have no idea what’s coming.... Wait till the real bullets start flying."
For Patrick King, his return to the Sault last month was not his first high-profile homecoming. He'd also driven into town on Feb. 17, 2019 as part of the United We Roll convoy in support of oil pipelines. The convoy was widely criticized for being linked to the far-right Yellow Vests movement and anti-immigrant rhetoric that had nothing do with pipelines.
During that visit, King said people complained that their wives burned their dinners because they were so occupied with watching the trucks arrive.
The 2019 convoy didn't accomplish much, in King's eyes.
"I promised those politicians, they didn't do what they said they were going to do the last time when we did this,” he said in a Facebook Live post that “I promised I ain't coming back with just a couple trucks. I'm coming back with a bloody nation, and we'll fix it ourselves. I kept my word."
"Oh, mom's getting a giant bear hug," King said two weeks ago, on his way back to his hometown. "She knows that's coming. I don't know who squeezes harder, me or her."
"I'm getting a little emotional right now,” he said later, as his camera rolled. “I'm not going to lie."
"You hear that, boys? That's the warrior drum. She's coming. The warriors are coming."