Who is Pussy Riot?
Pussy Riot engages in political performance art protesting recent crackdowns and rollback of freedoms in Russia. In a performance on February 21, 2012, on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, members of the Pussy Riot punk rock group asked the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin. They were surrounded by FSB agents and arrested on a dark Moscow street two weeks later and charged with hooliganism. After a quick trial, the three received two-year sentences in penal/work colonies far from their families. One member, Katia Samutsevich, was released on appeal with a suspended sentence. She was not on the altar when the group performed.
Why does the world care?
Music icons like Paul McCartney, Sting, Madonna, Bjork, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More released statements decrying the harsh sentence. They cited freedom of speech issues and called for release of the women. Yoko Ono awarded the group recognition by presenting them the LennonOno Peace Award to Nadia’s husband, Peter Verzilov and his daughter, Gera.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out for the women at a conference panel with President Putin, as did the president of France and England’s prime minister. President Obama also expressed his concern. Demonstrators came out by the thousands in Moscow, Paris, New York, London and many other cities worldwide.