Protesters with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s (IPO) BBC Proms concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall Thursday night.
Several demonstrators in the hall shouted as Zubin Mehta stood to conduct Bruch’s violin concerto, however, the rest of the audience booed in response.
While BBC Radio 3 said it had to interrupt its live broadcast twice “as a result of sustained audience disturbance,” some concert-goers claim the performance was interrupted up to seven different times.
Members of the pro-Palestinian group had allegedly been calling on people to boycott the concert and urged the BBC to cancel the performance.
In a statement published on its website, the activist group claimed IPO showed “complicity in whitewashing Israel’s persistent violations of international law and human rights.”
The BBC reports that outside the concert hall, roughly 20 PSC demonstrators waved banners and sang songs in protest against the philharmonic’s appearance. They were met, however, by several pro-Israel groups who staged their own protest in response.
Addressing the disruption, the BBC Proms Team took to Twitter, stating: “We’re sorry that the concert was taken off air following hall disturbance. Glad both pieces were heard by the audience in the RAH.”
It later added: “We regret that as a result of sustained audience disturbance tonight’s concert was taken off BBC Radio 3.”
A spokeswoman for BBC Proms said it appeared each piece had been targeted by different protesters seated around the hall.
She said the broadcaster was “disappointed” the coverage had been taken off air but said the performance had continued in the hall.
About 30 people were removed by security but there were no arrests and no violence, she said.
The BBC’s Tom Symonds said: “As Zubin Mehta stood up and began each piece a small group of protesters each time tried to stop the music.
“They sang, they shouted, they were met by boos by the audience and they had to be removed by the security staff.”
One regular Proms-goer, Chris Keating, said there were actually six or seven disturbances during the performance.
“The first was in a quiet passage of the first piece,” he told the BBC.
“About a dozen protesters in the choir seats stood up with a banner saying Free Palestine and started chanting and singing to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy… They were drowned out by the orchestra as the passage of music got louder and were ushered out.”
A music reviewer who was at the performance, Igor Toronyi-Lalic, told the BBC “The whole hall was groaning and trying to slow clap them out.”
“It had the atmosphere of a riot.”
While the BBC claims that security for the concert had been increased as a precautionary measure, this was not the first time anti-Israel protesters have targeted classical music performances. According to the report, five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign disrupted a concert by the Jerusalem String Quartet at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall back in 2008.
Police confirmed that while no arrests were made Thursday evening, there were heated exchanges not only among the activists but also angry concert-goers.
The BBC said it would broadcast part of the concert on 7 September.