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Ferguson Protesters Delay Symphony After Intermission

Powell Hall, home of the St. Louis Symphony.
Alise O'Brien
Powell Hall, home of the St. Louis Symphony.

Saturday night protesters used a new tactic to raise awareness about the shooting death of Ferguson resident Michael Brown. They brought their own music and a chant to the St. Louis Symphony’s performance with a continuation of the ongoing protests in Ferguson.

Protesters sang an adaptation of the protest song "Which Side Are You On" written by Florence Reece and popularized by folk singer Pete Seeger.  Protestors also hung banners from the balcony. Adam Crane, the symphony's vice president for external affairs, estimated 50 protesters were in attendance. Crane said the singing began during intermission immediately preceding the Brahms requiem.

"Right before the first note, we just started hearing some singing," said Crane, who characterized the protest as peaceful.

According to Crane, as the protesters began singing, the conductor turned toward the balcony and waited for them to finish. Some members of the orchestra and audience applauded, some ignored the event.

Crane said that most of the audience took the experience in stride.

"We let them say what they wanted to say and there’s nothing else for us to do. We respect what they’re saying," said Crane.  "I’m thankful they didn’t interrupt the actual performance."

Following the singing, protesters dispersed peacefully. They left fliers with the phrase Requiem for Mike Brown and the dates of his birth and death in their wake.

The St. Louis American reported that the protest was organized by "Sarah Griesbach, 42, a white woman who lives in the Central West End. She said that the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, has opened her eyes to the inequalities that exist in St. Louis."

Griesbach told the American: “It is my duty and desire to try to reach out and raise that awareness peacefully but also to disrupt the blind state of white St. Louis, particularly among the people who are secure in their blindness."