Supporters of the black teenager who was gunned down by a white Ferguson, Mo. police officer in August switched gears this weekend, staging an emotional and powerful protest in the most unlikely of places.
On Saturday night, demonstrators stood up one by one, singing in support of Michael Brown to the surprise (and disgust) of guests attending the St. Louis Symphony, which had just returned from intermission and was preparing to launch into Brahms’ ‘Ein deutsches Requiem’ (A German Requiem).
A “Requiem for Mike Brown” is what they got instead.
“Justice for Mike Brown is Justice for us all, Which side are you on friend? Which side are you on?” they repeated.
As the supporters, black and white, stood to sing, a man in the background can be heard calling Brown a thug. Others booed. But eventually the crowd breaks into applause, carrying the protestors into their next chant — “Black lives matter!”
Protestors, all of whom were paying customers at the symphony, unfurled banners from the balcony reading “Racism Lives Here,” and “Rise Up And Join the Movement.”
“We looked up the performances, and found (Saturday’s performance) was a Requiem. It just seemed almost destined,” said Elizabeth Vega, who came up with the idea with Sarah Griesbach.
The pair spread the word for strong singers through word of mouth and on social media. The protesters rehearsed the song three times before heading to the symphony.
“We wanted something simple that would stick with people,” Vega said.
The singing lasted for about a minute and a half.
The outcome of the protest was quite different from the daily demonstrations in Ferguson streets as well – this time, there were no handcuffs or arrests.
“There were a number of patrons inside the hall who were apparently very moved by what these people had to say,” symphony publicist Erika Ebsworth-Goold told KTVI.
She estimated that about 50 people were involved in the demonstration, all had bought tickets and none were arrested.
Ebsworth-Goold told KSDK she wished the protesters had stayed for the performance.
“Brahms’ ‘Requiem’ was a beautiful peace that was written to really console the people who were left behind during a loss,” Ebsworth-Goold told the station. “I think if they would’ve stayed, it would have been healing and cathartic for them.”
To see the beautiful tribute, watch the video above.