The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Protesters interrupt St. Louis Symphony with ‘Requiem for Mike Brown’

Ferguson, Mo. — Protesters rallying over the slaying of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown left the streets on Saturday night, put on sports coats and fancy dresses and sat in on the St. Louis Symphony.

During the intermission of a performance of Brahms Requiem, the 23 protesters sitting in various parts of the auditorium stood up and sang, “Requiem for Mike Brown.”

“Justice for Mike Brown is Justice for us All,
Which side are you on friend? Which side are you on?”

As they began to sing, protests unfurled banners from the balcony that encouraged symphony patrons to “join the movement.”

The group was surprised by the response, said Derek Laney, an organizer for Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. Instead of being ushered out in handcuffs by police, some patrons of the symphony — and some symphony members themselves — applauded the tuneful message. The group left on their own after about a minute and a half of singing, while they chanted “Blacks Lives Matter.”

“It went to show that there are people among that crowd who think that the protests matter and that it’s not okay to just kill black children, and they’d be receptive to hear that message,” Laney said. “It was a perfect moment. As we left, people were smiling and reaching out to shake our hands.”

Music has been an integral part of protests in Ferguson, and in St. Louis, with the airwaves featuring hip-hop songs aplenty mourning the loss of Brown at the hands of a white police officer, Darren Wilson.

But a flash mob at the symphony was an attempt to “speak to a segment of the population that has the luxury of being comfortable,” Laney said. “You have to make a choice for just staying in your comfort zones or will you speak out for something that’s important? It’s not all right to just ignore it.”

The protesters, who were remarkably on pitch as seen on video footage posted late Saturday night, only practiced the song a few times hours before the demonstration. The demonstration was yet another example of protesters in and around Ferguson trying to expand their base in anticipation of “national mobilization” effort scheduled in the St. Louis suburb next week.