From bat signals to street protests, from YouTube to Facebook, from tee shirts to Russian dolls, the all-girl punk rock band, Pussy Riot hoped to stir things up in Russia but started an international revolution instead. This very movement took a bite of the Big Apple recently when Amnesty International, partnered with The Voice Project, freepussyriot.org and Others Calls for the Immediate and Unconditional Release of Pussy Riot, held a pop up art exhibition and a fundraiser at the Lombard Fried Gallery in Chelsea in support of the group.
Russian authorities arrested Ekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadjeda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Rioot in March for performing a punk prayer in February, at a cathedral in Moscow, titled “Virgin Mary, Relieve us of Putin”. The three members were convicted of ‘hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred’ and sentenced to two years in prison in August. Amnesty international immediately released a statement condemning the whole affair and calling the Moscow court ruling a ‘travesty’. The gallery exhibition was arranged not only to protest the arrest and conviction of the Pussy Riot members but also to serve as a benefit to raise funds for the families of the jailed punk rockers. The Gallery screened five original videos by Pussy Riots on a continuous loop, including footage of the protest song that lead to their imprisonment.
“There has been a huge outpour in the music community, in particular, in solidarity with Pussy Riots,” said Suzzane Nossel, Executive Director, Amnesty International noting the support of artists such as Madonna, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Sting and others, speaking out and standing with Pussy Riots, calling for their freedom. “We’re very pleased that the Lombard Fried Gallery has brought this case to the artistic community and to the world of New York City galleries and artists, to bring them together with this group of women who are expressing themselves and are being punished for it.” “Anyone is entitled to their opinion. A line is crossed where a government imprisons and arrests and sentences people for simple expression of their belief.” Nossel added. The benefit was the brainchild of Victoria Dushkina, general manager of Moscow’s Gary Tatintsian Gallery. She originally wanted to execute this idea in Moscow but got no response there. “People are afraid. They are not afraid here so I came to New York.” Dushkina told the media at the exhibition. “ I want to support them and I want to help their families. It is very difficult in Russia to do this.” She added that broadcast media in Russia is completely state controlled and people should not go by the Russian TV at all since it is all part of government propaganda.
The event attracted many key personalities from the music industry and international personalities; especially Russians who showed support and believed that Amnesty International’s efforts were commendable. Tim Hayes, Co owner of New York City rock club CBGB, was also present at the event. He termed the court ruling outrageous. “I hope they get released immediately. They have committed no crime, hence, should not be punished.” In August, Hayes travelled to Moscow to hand deliver the petition letter to the prosecutor’s office. The letter voiced support by music greats Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel and many other eminent media personalities.
There with his business partner, Hayes met with the rocker’ families, went to a support rally and helped the band’s legal team to organize ways of maintaining pressure on the Putin administration for immediate release of the imprisoned members. Pussy Riot’s lawyers have filed an appeal against the verdict. The hearing is scheduled for Oct 1st in Moscow. Will the Riots continue or will the rights be met? Only time will tell.