Student protesters try to disrupt CSO concert

Sun Apr 03, 2016 at 12:07 am

By Tim Sawyier and Lawrence A. Johnson

Student protesting college funding cuts forced their way into Symphony Center Saturday night. Photo: ABC7 ChicagoNews
Students protesting college funding cuts forced their way into Symphony Center Saturday night. Photo: ABC7 ChicagoNews

A group of around a hundred student protestors rushed into Symphony Center Saturday night in an unsuccessful attempt to disrupt the evening’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.

The demonstration began at 7:45 when dozens of college-age protestors forced their way into the hall. Some sported neon crossing guard vests and many carried placards that read “Millionaires Pay Your Fair Share!” And “Support Education–Tax Large Corporations.”

ABC7 Eyewitness News reports the group to be members of IIRON and the IIRON Student Network. The website of the latter says the group “trains students to understand, build, and exercise power through collective action.” Their signs called for an end to college cuts and demanded more student tuition in Illinois.

Altercations with Symphony Center ticket takers ensued shortly before the curtain time as members of the group blocked doors to allow others to pass into the first floor lobby area. “You need a ticket to be in there!” one exasperated ticket collector shouted.

Once inside the group’s members engaged in call-and-response chants with a leader wielding a megaphone. The commotion was heard as far up as the lower balcony foyer, but not inside Orchestra Hall itself.

Some of the demonstrators managed to enter the hall. Small groups of protestors advanced to the front of the terrace seating behind the stage and attempted to unfurl banners, but these efforts were unsuccessful. One side of the banner on stage right fell down before being abandoned and removed, showing the names of Sam Zell and Governor Bruce Rauner.

Several patrons blocked the protestors’ actions on stage left, wrestling with them for control of their banner. Before it could be unfurled it was yanked down firmly to the stage by CSO trumpeter John Hagstrom, who received grateful applause from audience members.

The performance itself, conducted by Susanna Mälkki and featuring violinist Gil Shaham, began on schedule and was not disturbed or interrupted. By intermission all the protestors had been dispersed.

The CSO released a brief, cryptic statement on the event late Saturday night: “Student protestors dispersed as concert got underway tonight.”

Posted in News

8 Responses to “Student protesters try to disrupt CSO concert”

  1. Posted Apr 03, 2016 at 4:45 pm by opus

    I wonder how many of those kids bothered to vote in the last gubernatorial elections? Rauner won with a very low turnout. Not as sexy as getting on TV news with a protest sign, but a lot more effective.

  2. Posted Apr 03, 2016 at 8:04 pm by Patrick Crosby

    Well, you have to admit these kids were innovative. Perhaps they were trying to achieve a sort of inverse of John Cages 4’33? I mean, instead of 4’33’ of silence at a piano, approximate that amount of time for pure noise and disruption in the concert hall? Certainly, a good deal more interesting than say, a Mozart horn concerto that everyone’s heard 1000 times. I certainly hope this world premier performance was recorded for posterity.

  3. Posted Apr 03, 2016 at 9:50 pm by xyzt

    opus: First we’d have to stop disenfranchising teenagers. Think before you post.

  4. Posted Apr 04, 2016 at 10:49 am by brenboy01

    I wonder how many of them were musicians. Such disrespect for musicians and patrons that cannot do anything about the situation. Protest at city hall where the laws are made. Well done John Hagstrom!

  5. Posted Apr 04, 2016 at 11:02 am by Leggy Mountbatten

    Who is disenfranchising College students? Last I checked, almost all of them were 18 by the time they entered school.

  6. Posted Apr 04, 2016 at 3:24 pm by Marie A.

    What a pity they let in the plebeians to trouble us about their public schools and scholarships! How I long for the days when high culture was the preserve of bishops and nobles. Why waste our beloved music on the uncouth ears of the young and vulgar when it would be more welcome in the private salons of men like Zell and Griffin?

  7. Posted Apr 05, 2016 at 4:59 pm by Linda M.

    Opus: It’s not Rauner that’s the problem–it’s the the democrats who refuse to understand budgets and that raising taxes is not the solution–cutting expenses helps too. And no, they are not disenfranchised.

  8. Posted Apr 05, 2016 at 8:16 pm by Matthias

    How much good will Beethoven do us when our government stops using citizens’ money (i.e. taxes) to pay for our roads, our schools, our clean water? We are in a dire situation and I’m frankly glad that the CSO was considered a visible and public enough venue for these kids to voice their complaints. One point for the relevancy of music.

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