• Fri, Aug 17 2012

Pussy Riot Sentenced To Two Years In Prison, Igniting Protests Around The World

The three captured members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in prison for the crime of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after being held in custody for five months. The two-and-a-half-hour-long verdict was read out earlier today as the members were made to stand, “sad smiles” sometimes appearing on their faces. Given the absurdity of the government’s treatment of them, I imagine they had no choice but to laugh even as they were about to be hauled away to prison. What better way to punish someone for performing a minute-long song about oppression in Russia than by throwing them in jail for two years? That will teach them that Vladimir Putin is the best!

The case has drawn international attention as celebrities like Madonna, Paul McCartney, Bjork, Chloe Sevigny, and Peaches have made statements in support of the women, and I can tell you from experience that the amount of support in New York alone is enormous…I tried to go to the reading last night, but it filled up immediately, and a long line of supporters of all stripes snaked around the block. (Androgynous hipsters and old Russian men alike!)

Personally, this verdict makes me so mad I want to punch a fucking wall, and I think a lot of people are feeling the same way. Freedom of speech is an issue that’s hardly confined to Russia, and if you don’t think similar shit goes down all the time right here in America, you are fooling yourself. Can we channel those emotions into some kind of productive direct action? FreePussyRiot.org has marked August 17 Free Pussy Riot Global Day, and protests are blooming in Moscow, Paris, Kiev, Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, New York, London, Dublin and Barcelona, to name a few.

As saddened as I am by the verdict, I’m heartened that people are adopting the band’s colorful, anonymous aesthetic all over the world to champion feminism and human rights in Russia and beyond. And when the band gets out of jail, they’ve got great things waiting for them; Kathleen Hanna has already said she wants to take them on tour with her. I’m truly inspired by these young women’s commitment to fighting for what they believe in against abysmal odds; you can read all of their closing statements here. I’ll leave you with some of Maria Alyokhina’s:

I am extremely angered by the phrase ‘so-called’ which the State Prosecutor uses to refer to contemporary art. I would like to draw attention to the fact that during the trial of Brodsky exactly the same phrase was used. His poems were referred to as ‘so-called poetry’, and the witnesses hadn’t even read them. Just as a number of our witnesses had not actually seen what had happened……And if that’s how it is, then for me at least this trial is just a ‘so-called’ trial. I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ‘so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.

We are all Pussy Riot!!!

(Via BBC News)

Illustration: Debbie Allen

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  • Sarah

    Righteous and right on!