October 5, 2014; Washington Post
The patrons of the St. Louis Symphony were largely accepting of and even moved by the singing “flash mob” that broke out right after intermission and right before the performance of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem on Saturday night.
Around 50 protesters, distributed around the auditorium and from a range of charities, and backgrounds rose from their seats and began to sing “Which Side are You On,” sung here by its author, Florence Reese. The song dates back to 1931 and was associated with Harlan County union struggles, but it has been used often since.
A video of the event follows.
They then scattered red paper hearts, which floated down from the balcony onto the audience members below, reading “Requiem for Michael Brown, May 20, 1996 – August 8, 2014” and left peacefully.
— stevegiegerich (@stevegiegerich) October 5, 2014
Melissa Brooks, one of the musicians, tweeted:
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— Melissa (@1740testore) October 5, 2014
In contrast, at 36 seconds into the recording of the event, one man can be heard calling Brown a thug and a criminal. These statements are emblematic of the diversity of American sentiment towards the events in Ferguson and can be seen as a microcosm of American opinion towards the issues of corruption and endemic discrimination as a whole. The continuing protests remind us all that the issues highlighted by the shooting of Brown and the protests that followed remain unresolved.
The symphony appeared to graciously accept its place as a venue for the reminder. Erika Ebsworth-Goold, the publicist for the St. Louis Symphony, said, “The orchestra had assembled, the chorus was on the stage, our soloists were on the stage, and so was our conductor. We were just getting ready to start when this happened.”
“These were people who had paid money to come see the concert,” Ebsworth-Goold said. “They were patrons of ours, and we’ll discuss it certainly but I can’t see any major security protocol changes at this point.” She did express a wish that the protestors had stayed to hear the rest of the performance, describing the Brahms piece as “healing and cathartic.”
Protests such as these continue to signify the continuing need for an open and honest dialogue about the existence of systematic and systemic discrimination, in order to achieve the institutional transparency that can protect against tragedies such as Brown’s death.—Hannah Butler and Ruth McCambridge