Chris Willman
May 16, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

If boos, turned backs, and empty seats were to be the measure of America’s Dixie Chicks admonishment, then the U.S.’ most polarizing trio can still safely call their jaunt the Top of the World Tour one week in. And lovers of democracy can revel in the dissent and debate stirring up fanseven inside the arenas.

May 1, Greenville, S.C. Pro-and anti-Chick forces muster roughly 30 demonstrators each — no match for the 70 media folks lined up to interview them. Inside, Natalie Maines offers haters 15 seconds to get their boos out. None are audible over the cheers.

May 3, Orlando Finally, a skirmish: K92, a country station that boycotted the Chicks, audaciously shows up to hand out promotional fliers, some of which end up back on their vans’ windshields bearing messages like ”Screw you, anti-Chick radio!”

May 4, Fort Lauderdale No protesters tonight…but some fans make their feelings, pro-Bush and pro-Chick, known on T-shirts. Lauren Andrews’ reads ”Bush 2004” on the front and ”Freedom of speech — use it wisely” on the back. ”It was their right to say what they did, and our right to make these shirts to say we didn’t like it,” she says.

May 5, Tampa A rarity Tampa’s country station is not only playing the Chicks but doing a live feed from the parking lot. Perhaps to compensate for this welcome wagon, a cadre of 20 demonstrators heckles arriving fans. ”Are the girls dragging you [to the show]?” yells Wayne Comellas to men across the street. ”Don’t be whipped!” Proving again that not everyone got the Chicks rule! memo.

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