Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a member today »

Screenshot from Rebecca Rivas's video of "Requiem for Mike Brown" protest at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (via YouTube)

Screenshot from Rebecca Rivas’s video of “Requiem for Mike Brown” protest at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (via YouTube)

Last weekend, a flash mob of singers interrupted a concert of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to stage a “Requiem for Mike Brown,” the unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, this past August. The shooting prompted widespread protests, which were met with intense force by local police, and is currently under investigation by a county grand jury, the FBI, and the Department of Justice.

The protest performance took place at the end of intermission during an October 4 concert, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. As the orchestra and chorus were preparing to begin playing Brahms’s Requiem, two audience members on the main floor stood up and began singing a modified version of the union song “Which Side Are You On?” Their lyrics were:

Which side are you on, friend,
which side are you on?
Justice for Mike Brown is
justice for us all.

As they continued singing, more audience members stood up in their seats and joined in, while other members of the group unfurled four hand-made banners from the balcony. When they were finished singing, the protesters dropped papers hearts from the balcony and filed out, chanting “black lives matter.” The entire disruption lasted five minutes, according to the Post-Dispatch. A spokeswoman for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra said all the protesters had paid for their tickets.

Rebecca Rivas of the St. Louis American newspaper captured most of the event in the video above, including, notably, the reactions of different audience members. One man can be heard saying “he was a thug,” in reference to Brown. Rivas confronts the speaker, asking him if he wants to “say that again,” but the man simply smiles. Later on in the video, Rivas records the man’s well-dressed partner looking around bewildered and horrified.

Paper heart dropped by protesters (photo by ‏Steve Giegerich/Twitter)

Others in the sparse audience applaud the singer-protesters, including members of the orchestra, who sit respectfully on stage for the entire disruption. “The symphony has held benefit concerts for Ferguson. These are artists,” explained one of the organizers of the protest to the Daily Kos. “Artists have responded to this movement from the beginning.”

Support Hyperallergic

As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever. 

Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.

Become a Member

Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...