Question: What does a fascist regime look like?
In Russia, if you criticize the government in public, you end up in prison. What will the charge be? “Hooliganism.” The women of the Rock Group “Pussy Riot” did exactly this in February of 2012 by shouting, “Mother Mary, please drive Putin away,” in a protest act inside Christ Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Today, October 1, is their appeal trial. Before taking action and signing the petition below, let’s reflect on how lucky we are in the United States to have our multiple rights to freedom of expression (specifically, freedom of speech, the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and freedom of religion) protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Now let’s reflect on the irony. These women were praying for mercy from the tyranny of a fascist regime, out loud, in public.
From my friends at Avaaz:
“Facing 2 years in jail for singing a song criticizing President Putin in a church, a member of Pussy Riot gestured to the court and said in her show-trial’s closing statements, “Despite the fact that we are physically here, we are freer than everyone sitting across from us … We can say anything we want…”
Russia is steadily slipping into the grip of a new autocracy — clamping down on public protest, allegedly rigging elections, intimidating media, banning gay rights parades for 100 years, and even beating critics like chess master Garry Kasparov. But many Russian citizens remain defiant, and Pussy Riot’s eloquent bravery has galvanized the world’s solidarity. Now, our best chance to prove to Putin there is a price to pay for this repression lies with Europe.”
Sound familiar? The Dixie Chicks protested the U.S government in 2003 during a London concert ten days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when lead vocalist Maines said, “we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States [George W. Bush] is from Texas.” Only they didn’t end up in prison.
Please join me in signing the petition from my friends at Amnesty International:
“As an Amnesty activist, you know we don’t need a bulldozer to free a prisoner – just the power of our voices. And we need your voice more than ever as [the women of members of the rock band] Pussy Riot face[s] an appeal hearing on October 1st.
Turn up the volume of protest to end the political persecution of Pussy Riot. Send your message calling for the unconditional release of Nadya, Masha and Katja.
Nadya and the other members of Pussy Riot went to the cathedral to give Russia – and the rest of the world – a wake-up call. They felt it was their civic duty to expose the corruption and repression they saw.
Pussy Riot stood up for their ideals. As artistic expression. Nonviolently. Legally.
Except, of course, in Putin’s Russia, where their dissent was stifled and condemned as “hooliganism.”
But there is hope. The world is watching. Last week, Pyotr Verzilov travelled with his daughter Gera to the United States to work with Amnesty to raise awareness for his wife’s case. During the Amnesty International Youth Town Hall, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Pyotr and Gera and called for the release of the women. With Amnesty at her side, Yoko Ono gave the band the LennonOno Grant for Peace to honor their courage.
During their visit, Pyotr expressed how moved he was by your advocacy on behalf of his wife and the other courageous women imprisoned for expressing their opinions peacefully:
“We are grateful to Amnesty International for your work on the case and all of your support. The most important thing you can do is rally people. We need your voices.”
Chief of Campaigns & Programs
Amnesty International USA”
Here’s the letter I sent to Russia’s Prosecutor General today:
“I am deeply concerned about the imprisonment of Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova for performing a protest song in a cathedral as part of the feminist punk group “Pussy Riot” on February 21, 2012.
The two-year prison sentence handed down to Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is far too severe. The cathedral performance was a peaceful protest against President Vladimir Putin and those leaders of the Orthodox Church who have supported his repressive tactics.
While it is true that many Russians were offended by Pussy Riot’s actions, the women never incited violence and they do not deserve prison terms. They were prosecuted for political reasons and they are prisoners of conscience.
I call on you to immediately and unconditionally release the three imprisoned members of Pussy Riot. It is up to you to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression in Russia and ensure that there are no additional arrests or trials related to this case.”
Let’s take action and join our voices in protesting injustice and objecting to government abuse of power anywhere and everywhere on Earth.