In early 2012, the Russian feminist punk band/avant grade group Pussy Riot staged several disruptive performances in Moscow. Inspired by Oi! bands, the riot grrrl movement, and an diverse slew of cultural thinkers, the band donned colorful ski masks, armed themselves with electric guitars, and sang in protest of the devastating violations of civil rights happening under Putin’s regime.
Back in February, Mer blogged about the band’s “Punk Prayer” – an incident in which the band stormed Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral for an impromptu performance. The lyrics of the song criticized the Orthodox Church’s corrupt alliance with Putin’s government, asking Mother Mary to deliver Russia from Putin’s third term. “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist,” the girls sang before they were dragged away by the authorities.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, the three jailed members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot
After the performance, things got dark for Pussy Riot. Three members of the group were arrested, thrown in jail, denied bail, and held without trial for months. They have been charged with “hooliganism,” and are facing up to seven years in prison. At time of writing, the women have spent 117 days in jail, with the trial postponed for months longer. This is without any family visits, despite two of the girls being young mothers.
Shit is fucked up and bullshit in Russia. Putin has just exponentially increased the anti-protest fine, riot police are savagely beating anti-Putin protesters, and the homes of opposition leaders just got raided. Moscow has just placed a 100-year ban on LGBT pride parades, and St. Petersburg has banned any images of “gay propaganda.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled media has done its best to sway public opinion against the girls, painting them as “blasphemous” criminals bent on destroying the entire Russian Orthodox religion. In this climate, it’s likely that the three members of Pussy Riot will be convicted. In fact, just 7% of Russians believe that the band should not somehow be punished.
Luckily, Pussy Riot’s plight has started to gain international attention. Solidarity demonstrations are happening around the world, there have been enthusiastic benefit shows, and Pussy Riot has caught the attention of the art world. In Russia, more than 100 of Russia’s best-known cultural figures have signed a letter urging for the band to be released. Abroad, musicians including Kathleen Hanna have taken up the cause, and Anti-Flag released a Punk Prayer cover in support.
What can you do to help? For one, spread the word. Organize a local benefit, or donate to their legal fund (note: at time of writing, the site freepussyriot.org where you can donate is down, but most of the time it’s running). Take action with Amnesty International, urging the Prosecutor’s Office to drop the charges and release the band. Stage a protest at your local Russian Embassy or Russian Orthodox Church. Take pictures. Show the band that they are not forgotten.