A Pussy Riot of Their Own

By Liz Gorman

If you don’t know already, the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot have been held without bail by the authorities in Moscow since early March. Their crime? “Hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred,” which in this case means playing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral. The three women (Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevichis) face up to seven years in a labor camp on these trumped-up charges.

The verdict is set to be officially announced on August 17, but in the meantime, protests demanding the band (who VICE interviewed shortly before their arrest) be freed have been cropping up all over the place, including a solidarity rally and concert on Friday held in front of the Russian embassy in Glover Park, a normally quiet suburban neighborhood in Washington, DC.

A few weeks ago, a group of protesters rushed the gates of the embassy and mooned the guards, but there wasn’t really any of that rowdiness on display this time around. Local bands Sad Bones, Mobius Strip, and War on Women performed sporting the necessary balaclavas, but they played to a crowd of less than 100 and the event (which they had permits for—not very punk rock) felt like a press conference dressed up as a community cookout.

A bit bored from the lack of hooliganism, I spoke to Michelle Ringuette of Amnesty International, who told me that Amnesty was hoping to meet with the Russian embassy next week to “make sure they recognize that people all over the world have been speaking out.” Michelle went on, “Russia has a huge responsibility here. We are at risk of enabling dictators to use repressive tactics to silence free speech everywhere.”

I wish I could say that Michelle’s meeting or the protest would make a difference to Pussy Riot’s fate. A few days ago, Ekaterina Samusevichis was allowed to give a closing statement at what has for all intents and purposes been a Soviet-style show trial: Enclosed in a wooden and glass cage, she eviscerated the court, the state, and the church: “It makes you want to weep to see how the methods of the medieval inquisition are brought out by the law-enforcement and judicial system of the Russian Federation, which is our country. Since the time of our arrest, however, we can no longer weep. We’ve forgotten how to cry. At our punk concerts we used to shout as best we could about the iniquities of the authorities and now we’ve been robbed of our voice.”

Here are some of my photos from the DC protest—at least in America, they still allow people to do this.

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