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Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

Not a Bunch of Pussies: The reaction to Pussy Riot jailing

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Punk band Pussy Riot protest the government (S)
Three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in jail following an anti-Putin, pro-LGBT protest at Moscow Cathedral in February of this year.

According to government-funded, 24-hour news channel Russia Today, the "vulgar song" has "caused a storm in Russian society" and more than 60 people were arrested outside the courthouse.

They also said that "making an exception for religion [in the freedom of speech act] is a dangerous path". So is this really reflective of that picture of a tyrannic Russia which some people are trying to paint?

It can be said that Russia is making "an exception for religion" because Pussy Riot have done many other protests in the past including this one which consisted in an orgy in a museum and having sex with a chicken in a supermarket. However, the band did not even face arrest after these protests. Some people are therefore saying that the fact this protest took place in Moscow Cathedral lead to judge Marina Syrova making an exception for religion in the freedom of speech act. The church has praised the verdict of "hooliganism and religious hatred" and called for clemency "within the bounds of law" and calling the Pussy Riot protest "blasphemous".

Or was it because their song was anti-Putin, feminist, and pro-LGBT? The latter seems more likely. Let's not forget that Moscow is a city which recently placed a 100 year ban on gay pride parades and upheld it today, shortly after the Pussy Riot sentencing. Anti-gay laws have also been enforced in other Russian cities such as Saint Petersburg.

Madonna shows her support during Moscow concert (S)
Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney were amongst many world-famous artists to have shown their support for Pussy Riot. Protests in support of the band also took place in Paris, Brussels, London and Tel Aviv to denounce the trial and outcome. A Russian specialist from the University of London said "the Russian state made the case high profile and knew they couldn't back down". Danny Schechter told Russia Today that "by prosecuting Pussy Riot [...] the Russian State will not and cannot win this one" saying that prosecuting Apartheid activists made them more prominent in South Africa. Schechter said that Pussy Riot were "courageous" and "stood up for what they believe in" and that their acts will fuel more protests around the world and spark more outcry in light of this sentencing. He continued in saying that "Putin will be demonized" in future protests before the Skype call strangely got cut off.

A Russia Today journalist said that some Russians feel victimized and tried to make the point that if this were a case of Italians protesting in the Vatican that it wouldn't be portrayed in the same way that the world's media are portraying Putin's Russia; as a tyrannic totalitarian State.

Tim Kirby, the host of 'Why You Should Care' said that "normally hooliganism gets 15 days", not 2 years. The maximum reported sentence that would have been able to have been issued was 7 years imprisonment, but due to Vladimir Putin saying he didn't want them to be treated too harshly, their sentence was reduced. Many are saying that the Pussy Riot case is causing divisions in Russian society, with the band's supporters saying the sentencing was "politically motivated" and their opposition claiming the feminist, pro-gay rights band "went over the top". Kirby said "the extremist minority have a larger voice because of the internet and a lot of Russians are passively against it". The defense will appeal the sentencing.

Obert Madondo of canadianprogressiveworld.com said the sentencing was "emblematic of Russia's intolerance of dissent". Amnesty International called it "a bitter blow to freedom of expression in Russia". Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, said the sentencing was "disproportionate".

The reactions on the Russian markets was also negative - summing up the world's reaction to the sentencing -, with the Russian RTS down 1% after the verdict.

Here is the song in its entirety with English subtitles from freepussyriot.org.

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