“Freedom was never free,” said trucker Kevin Homaund, of Montreal. “So what if they put the handcuffs on us and they put us in jail?”

Police began arresting protesters and towing away trucks Friday in a bid to break the three-week, traffic-snarling siege of Canada’s capital by hundreds of truckers angry over the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Working slowly and methodically, police led protesters away in handcuffs through Ottawa’s newly snow-covered streets, with at least one of those under arrest carrying a sign that read, “Mandate Freedom.”

Tow truck operators — wearing neon-green ski masks, with their companies’ decals taped over on their trucks to conceal their identities — arrived under police escort and set to work removing the big rigs, campers and other vehicles parked bumper to bumper.

While some protesters surrendered, many remained defiant as the crackdown unfolded.

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