- Posted February 21, 2013 by
Washington, District of Columbia
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Pussy Riot demonstrators almost arrested outside of Russian embassy
Washington – Human rights activists rallied outside the Russian Embassy Wednesday afternoon, re-enacting Russian feminist pick rock group Pussy Riot’s protest performance that put two members behind bars — a stunt so accurately staged that it almost led to the demonstrators’ own arrests.
On Feb. 21, 2012, five members of the punk rock group performed a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Orthodox church, in which they wore their signature brightly colored balaclavas. The song was titled, "Virgin Mary, Redeem Us of Putin," and the lyrics call for a feminist Virgin Mary to remove Putin from office. They were arrested and subsequently convicted of "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred."
Two members, Nadezha Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, are currently imprisoned in a Siberian prison camp with two-year sentences, while a third member, Ekaterina Samutsevich, was freed on appeal. All three convicted band mates are under the age of 25.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova lost their appeal to serve to their sentence in Moscow to be closer with their children and later filed for a deference of sentence until their children are 14-years-old. Both accounts were denied by court.
As of Feb. 8, Tolokonnikova serves her sentence in a nearby prison hospital while Alyokhina's formal reprimands have been dropped so she has the opportunity to be released on probation.
“This is a case that demonstrates the significant crackdown in Russia to human rights that represent a threat to human rights everywhere in the world,” said Michelle Ringuette, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International and a participant in the demonstration.
Amnesty International has supported Pussy Riot and their freedom of expression since the beginning of their trial, which Ringuette refers to as a "travesty of justice."
The rally began in an open area across the street from the Russian Embassy. As punk rock music — namely, punk band Anti-Flag — blasted from amplifiers, performers jaywalked through rush hour traffic on Wisconsin Avenue to protest in front of the embassy. After a tense encounter with nearby police, the group budged enough to move off private property and onto the sidewalk, a public space that does not require a permit.
Russian Embassy press officer Yevgeniy Khorishko could not be reached for comment.
“Being able to express yourself is an integral part of what we were raised to believe in,” said Audrey Irvine-Broque, a volunteer at Amnesty International and a student of American University. “But that’s not a worldwide reality and we’re trying to make it one.”
Irvine-Baroque, clad in a "Free Pussy Riot" t-shirt and a bright green balaclava, was one of the more than a dozen girls who braved the windy 30-degree weather to dance in the performance, which attracted a small but hopeful crowd.
The 20-minute demonstration was among numerous other vigils and rallies around the world to mark the one-year anniversary of Pussy Riot’s original protest performance. Pussy Riot became an international icon for free speech and garnered support from Western cultures shortly following their arrest by the Russian government.
“They don’t have a voice right now because they’ve been silenced in prison,” Irvine-Baroque said. “But we still have our voice here so we can use it help them.”
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