Russia’s Pussy Riot on trial today, face 7 years in jail for performing a punk song

The trial of members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot began today. In February, the band performed the song “Mother of God, Cast Putin Out” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral to protest the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Putin. Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were all arrested in March. They have been in jail ever since, and a court recently ruled they can be held until January 12, 2012. They are facing a possible seven year sentence. For performing a protest song.

(The video is closed captioned).

Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Church, said the church is “under attack by persecutors.” Look, I get concerns about religious persecution in Russia. My family came to the US fleeing the pogroms. I was raised in an Orthodox church where I constantly heard stories about Christians being imprisoned for years under Soviet rule. But extreme sentencing to silence one form of speech clearly isn’t the answer. Jailed for months before the trial, and a possible seven year sentence, all for performing a protest song? That sounds like persecution to me.

The band members made statements today – here are some quotes:

In statements to the court, band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said through her lawyer that the group was wrong to hold a punk performance in a place of religious worship, calling it an “ethical error,” according to Interfax.

Other members criticized the government and the church, saying their prosecution was taking place under pressure from church authorities.

Yekaterina Samutsevich said she saw the hooliganism charges brought against them as part of a repressive crackdown aimed at “spreading feelings of fear among those actively engaging with politics” in comments also read out by Volkova.

“I thought the Church loves all children, but the Church only loves children that love Putin,” Maria Alyokina said, journalist Maria Antonova wrote social-networking site Twitter.

Speaking to a lawyer, Tolokonnikova said,”We did not want to offend anybody. We admit our political guilt, but not legal guilt.”

Whatever your thoughts on the tactic of a punk performance in Moscow’s cathedral (I think it’s rad, having grown up in a repressive Orthodox church myself), it’s obvious the response is way over the top. Which has certainly helped Pussy Riot’s work of highlighting the relationship between the Church and Putin, and the government’s extreme take on dissent.

We’ll keep you updated as the trial progresses.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ toongrrl

    Thanks for updating Jos, plus if it’s ok, I want to confess I’ve always felt an urge to scream and go on a rant in mass (I’m Catholic) especially during Prop 8 and whenever there’s talk of being “persecuted” by the government or by History Channel.

  • http://feministing.com/members/womenissuesspeaker/ PaulFDavis-com

    Thanks for sharing this!

    I Retweeted (Twitter.com/PaulFDavis) for you and also posted on Facebook.com/speakers4inspiration

    Many thanks for not being silent, standing up for and empowering women!

    http://www.PaulFDavis.com/women-issues-speaker and author of Empowering & Liberating Women

  • http://feministing.com/members/yazikus/ Bonnie

    No even bothered to mention their traditional garb of skirts and modest head coverings. I’d say they were most respectful.

  • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    We have our fingers crossed for them.