60 Second Performance, Russian Punk Band Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison

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The name of the punk band itself can demand a double-take, Pussy Riot. A feminist punk band that has yet to release an album, the collection of performers stage politically provocative impromptu performances. In February, it was a short performance in a Moscow cathedral to protest Russian President Vladamir Putin and his close ties to the Russian Orthodox church.

On Friday, a female judge sentenced the 3 performers to 2 years in prison for "hooliganism" rooted in religious hatred. As the verdict was read, a crowd of thousands of supporters simmered with anger outside the courthouse. Dozens would be arrested by police including chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who was reportedly roughed up as he was taken into police custody.

Demands that the members of Pussy Riot be released are coming from within Russia and internationally as well. Protests emerged at Russian embassies on different continents. About half a dozen demonstrators in New York were arrested peacefully - one of them asking if the women would have faced the same prison sentence if the song they sang was pro-Putin. The US State Department amongst several countries to express dismay at the 2 year sentence. Music industry heavyweights including Madonna, Bryan Adams, and Sting have also been vocal about their support for the band.

In almost comical fashion at their sentencing Friday, Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, sat behind a glass wall- an odd picture that might even pass for an album cover someday. At times smiling, perhaps at the surreal result of what they argue was an expression of political protest. Adding to their support - two of the women are mothers with very young children.

New York itself is not immune to offensive behavior in a cathedral. Without political purpose, a radio shock-jock couple had the distasteful idea to arrange for two people to have sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral in 2002. The couple was charged with public lewdness - far from facing any prison time. and the masterminds behind it would eventually go national and be hired by CBS.

As for the three members of Pussy Riot, some are hopeful to hear the Russian Orthodox Church is now urging the state to show leniency. Hopes the church could intervene and either craft a pardon or a reduced sentence is complicated. A pardon would require the three women to admit guilt, a decision the women say they will not entertain as they make plans for an appeal.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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