You'd expect film fest organizers to understand the fine art of irony.
But they don't see anything ironic about irate film fest security trying to stop Country Music Fans Against War from setting up shop outside the premiere of Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing at Roy Thomson Hall on Tuesday, September 12.
With welcoming banners aloft, the group, part of the Homes Not Bombs network, hope to snag the attention of the Chicks, here for the opening of a flick by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck documenting the fallout from the country trio's anti-war comments.
But a Bruce Willis wannabe sporting a fearsome look and an earpiece à la Secret Service agent immediately runs over to say festival organizers will have none of it.
"This message is not compatible with the film festival. Get it out of here." Within minutes, Toronto police are on the scene to ask what we are doing.
"Welcoming the Dixie Chicks," we reply.
"Why?" the police inquire.
We think the signs are self-explanatory. But not ones to miss an educational opportunity, we explain the long tradition of songs in country music that address the concerns of real people confronting injustices.
The Dixie Chicks, following in the footsteps of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Iris Dement, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris and countless other country artists whose songs have addressed social ills, have not shied away from themes of war and violence.
"Well, you're going to have to remove that banner," one officer insists.
We are not posing a safety threat, not blocking anyone's view, and this is a public sidewalk - or at least there are no signs saying which part of the public sidewalk is private.
Hundreds of people were allowed to gather in front of the U.S. Consulate to mourn those who perished in the World Trade Center tragedy. But if 10 people want to mourn victims of U.S. wars, they are ordered across the street under threat of arrest?
As the drizzle gets thicker and our banners and placards more soaked, Dixie Chicks fans continue to join the gathering, and the police, thinking things are getting a bit crowded, back off for a while. But they leave one officer behind with several festival security staff to keep an eye on us.
Shortly before the film begins, the Dixie Chicks themselves arrive. We hold up our placards and are pleased to see them return the peace signs we send their way. We walk away wet but happy to have been part of an event celebrating people with courage.