Punkers' jail terms spark protests

A protester is taken into custody Friday outside the Russian consulate in NYC in support of the sentences against the punk-band trio.
A protester is taken into custody Friday outside the Russian consulate in NYC in support of the sentences against the punk-band trio. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: August 19, 2012

PARIS - Supporters of the punk-rock band Pussy Riot bared their breasts, covered their faces with ski masks and cross-dressed Friday in a series of raucous protests stretching from New York to Copenhagen to denounce the musicians' conviction in a Russian court.

In a Paris square, supporters followed the trial by phone and shouted in unison with protesters in Moscow. In Kiev, Ukraine, four women, one of them topless, used a chainsaw to cut down a cross. And in cities across Europe and the U.S., young people donned the neon-colored balaclavas that have become symbols of the band.

The three women, who have been in jail for more than five months because of a guerrilla performance denouncing President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral, were convicted on charges of hooliganism driven by religious hatred and were each sentenced to two years in prison.

The trial has been seen as a symbol of Russia's intolerance of dissent, especially under the reign of Putin, and a series of colorful and raucous protests have attracted worldwide attention to the feminist rockers' fate. Celebrities including Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bjork have called for the band members to be freed.

Governments including the United States, Britain, France and Germany joined the chorus Friday, denouncing the sentences as disproportionate.

Protesters from New York to London to Copenhagen donned colorful balaclavas like those the women were wearing when they performed in the cathedral and some men at the gathering in the British capital even wore dresses in solidarity.

"These three girls are just the tip of the iceberg," said Adam Adamson, 26, who set up the Facebook page for the London protest. "Many have been arrested because they were opposing Putin."

In New York, about 40 protesters gathered, holding up banners that read: "We are all hooligans."

In Barcelona, more than 50 colorfully garbed demonstrators sang and danced to Pussy Riot songs while protesting outside a church.

In Serbia, anti-Putin activists were planning protests in Belgrade, a Serbian far-right group has taken Putin's side. The group Nasi has launched an online game targeting the Pussy Riot members, and says on its website that the women should be sent to a hospital hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.

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