Pussy Riot Could Be Freed October 1, As Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Calls For Release
Pussy Riot Could Be Freed October 1, As Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Calls For Release

Members of Pussy Riot performing a punk prayer inside a Moscow's Cathedral in protest against Vladimir Putin.

This Friday (Aug. 17) a final verdict is expected in the trial of Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samucevich, the three 20-something women from the Russian band/collective Pussy Riot who were imprisoned for staging a brief public protest at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ Our Saviour in February against Vladimir Putin.

Protests against the group's March incarceration for charges of alleged hooliganism and incitement of religious hatred have come from across the globe and political spectrum ranging from Amnesty International to 121 members of the German Bundestag to such prominent musicians as Madonna, Bjork and The Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock. Musicians Pete Townshend, Jarvis Cocker and Neil Tennant wrote an Op-Ed in the Times of London in support of the band.

Madonna Gives Support To Russia's Imprisoned Pussy Riot at Moscow Show Despite Threats of Violence

In New York City, JD Samson of the band MEN and Le Tigre with artist, art teacher and historian Robert Lieber have organized an event for Thursday (Aug. 16) featuring actress Chloe Sevigny, poet Eileen Myles, performance artist Karen Finley, musician Johanna Fateman and performance artist Mx Justin Vivian Bond reading Pussy Riot's court room statements and letters to a live audience at The Ace Hotel. The event is being co-sponsored by Amnesty Internatioal.

In an email correspondence, Samson and Lieber explained to Billboard.biz that a NYC reading wasn't actually their first plan of action. "Robert and I had been discussing doing an event in Moscow," Samson wrote, "but as things proceeded and the impending trial and then verdict was getting closer, we shifted our energy to creating international visibility from New York. We didn't have much time to get together a big benefit concert, as we had potentially wanted, so Robert came up with the genius idea of a reading."

Russian Prosecutors Ask For 3 Year Sentence For Pussy Riot's Anti-Putin Protest

Lieber explained that participants will read "material directly from the women via the defense team, freepussyriot.org," who he says have a "wonderful translation team" (Lieber helps run the website). The site contains the group's opening statments, closing statemtents and letters.


A poster for NYC's Free Pussy Riot Reading

The NYC event's participants, says Samson, were all her "first choices" and that she just "called up the people that made sense and they were all excited to be a part of it."

Interestingly, Pussy Riot has cited the 1990s punk rock feminism of the Riot Grrrl movement (which included such female-led bands as Bratmobile, Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney) as a source of inspiration. When asked what that meant to her, Samson, a person associated with the movement, was both unsurprised and proud. "Riot Grrrl was incredibly inspirational to most feminist activist punks so it doesn't surprise me," she said. "I think that's why I feel so close to them, and think that in solidarity I must fight for their freedom, just as I know they would do for me."

Pussy Riot, Russian Anti-Putin Punk Rock Band, Reject Hooliganism Charges

Samson also seemed unsurprised by the outpouring of support from artists like Madonna, Bjork and others. "The main thing we are all realizing is that as artists it is our duty to speak our minds and I think all artists feel connected to that, no matter what kind of art you make," she said. "So it makes complete sense to me that so many people have come to back them up."

As an installation artist who focuses "on power as an overreaching theme" and a coordinator of installation art event called the Sacred + Profane for nearly 20 years, Lieber said after hearing of Pussy Riot's arrest, he "viewed the video of the punk prayer and immediately got it and realized that there were many components to [his] background that could serve to help people understand where Pussy Riot is coming from and hopefully secure their freedom."

U.K. Musicians Pete Townshend, Jarvis Cocker, Neil Tennant Seek Release of Russia's Pussy Riot

When asked what people who support Pussy Riot can do to help their cause, Lieber replied that "They can help the folks in Moscow and all of Russia know that we are watching and spreading the word of the misjustice not only done to Katja, Masha and Nadia (and their families), but to the thousands of Russian citizens who question authority and demand that their society be free of hate and police control."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print