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Arrests, breasts, chainsaws: Punk world backs Pussy Riot

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, August 19, 2012 4:16 EDT
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Russian policemen detain a supporter of the all-girl punk band "Pussy Riot" near the court building in Moscow via AFP
 
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A topless Ukrainian feminist felled a cross with a chainsaw, balaclava-clad New Yorkers braved arrest to picket an Orthodox church and Bulgarian punks re-decorated a war memorial.

Protesters took to the streets in cities around the world Friday to protest Russia’s jailing of female punk trio Pussy Riot, in colorful demonstrations inspired by the group’s anarchic, countercultural style of activism.

Rallies for Pussy Riot sprang up in London, Kiev, Barcelona, Sofia, Brussels, Paris and New York as a Moscow court convicted the young women of “hooliganism” and sentenced them to two years in prison.

“I’m here to express my outrage and to spread the word to people who don’t know what’s going on,” said Russian-American Xenia Grubstein, 31, sporting a purple balaclava outside the Saint Nicholas Orthodox church in New York.

Pussy Riot wore knitted facemasks at their now notorious February 21 protest in Moscow’s biggest cathedral, where they sang a raucous number calling on the on the Virgin Mary to drive out Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

The headgear has become the signature garment of their new global following, although one topless protester in Ukraine chose a less modest route, stripping to boots, cut-off shorts, safety goggles and a chainsaw.

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the Femen feminist group with “Free Riot” written on her chest and an arm, sawed clean through a huge wooden cross erected in memory of the victims of Stalin’s repression.

The protest in New York was less spectacular, but there were six arrests, for blocking traffic or, under an obscure local law, for wearing face masks.

“We’re not here to fight. We’re here to peacefully express ourselves about what’s wrong,” Russian-American protest singer Ellina Graypel, 40, said as police ordered her to move away from the sidewalk outside the consulate.

While some expatriate Russians turned up to demand freedom in their homeland, most at the protest were New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds, including Sarah Soller of lesbian punk band “Tin Vulva.”

“I’m here because I’m in a punk rock band and we’re not being jailed for our views. I find it ridiculous,” the 27-year-old said.

In London, around 50 people gathered at the Royal Court theatre which staged a mini-play entitled “Pussy Riots, the final verdict,” where actresses repeated the three women’s arguments from during their trial.

And in Bulgaria, Sofia’s Soviet army monument got a brief new facelift Friday morning when Pussy Riot supporters decorated its soldiers with the trademark colored balaclavas.

“Pussy Riot is an inspirational symbol of the fight for democracy in Russia,” the activists behind the stunt said, in a message emailed to AFP.

Authorities removed the monument’s decoration almost immediately but activists later gathered later outside the Russian embassy in Sofia wearing the same masks together with signs saying: “We all are Pussy Riot.”

In Spain, about 50 young protesters, many of them punk music followers, rallied outside Barcelona’s emblematic Sagrada Familia church to decry the detention and trial of the Russian group.

“Freedom for Pussy Riot,” they chanted outside Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, an unfinished basilica that was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

“This is very serious in the context not only of what is happening in Russia but also in Europe,” said one protester, Anna Ruiz, who bemoaned the advance of neo-liberal capitalism “to the detriment of democracy.”

“I am not a fan nor a follower of Pussy Riot but I am here because I am on holiday and to condemn repression,” said an 18-year-old student from Saint Petersburg called Katia, carrying a banner with a photo of a Pussy Riot member.

In Brussels, 50 people summoned by the Belgian branch of the human rights group Amnesty International gathered near the Russian embassy.

The protesters shouted: “Set them free. We have come to defend freedom of expression.” Others carried portraits of Putin, who appeared with heavy make-up and was renamed “Vladimir Pussy” for the occasion.

In Paris, a protest drew around 200 people, including more young women wearing the colored hoods.

“We are all Pussy Riot,” said Flore Breto, as she stood by a protester brandishing a sign with the slogan “Free the friends, jail Putin!”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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