Protests Condemn Pussy Riot Verdict, Call for Russia’s Awakening

On Friday, August 17th, 2012, I took part in one of many protests around the world in support of the jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot. A Russian courts has convicted Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina, and Nadezhda Tolokonikova of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

My colleague Innokenty Grekov recently spoke on The Wall Street Journal’s Daily Wrap: “Pussy Riot insulted Vladimir Putin personally, and we are seeing a retaliation through a politically motivated trial which ended badly for the girls. However, the international attention this case received is very useful and it’s even more important to see what’s happening in Russia as civil society is waking up and speaking out more and more against the Kremlin’s abuses.”

Listen to the rest of Grekov’s interview.

We gathered outside the Russian consulate in New York, chanting for freedom for the three young women before marching to Times Square to inform passers-by of the plight of Pussy Riot. Echoing Grekov, protesters optimistically spoke about the awakening of civil society in Russia, despite the sentencing of the punks to two years in prison each.

Russia’s anti-extremism and incitement statutes were created to stem the rising tide of hate crimes committed by neo-Nazi and nationalist groups, but these laws don’t clearly define extremism, and the government soon began using them to target dissenters, including journalists, religious organizations, artists, and gay rights activists. An LGBT organization seeking to confront homophobia at the upcoming Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics was recently denied official registration. The court accused the group of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation,” arguing that gay rights represent a direct threat to Russian society.

Human Rights First and our supporters called on Secretary Clinton to urge Russia to end the systematic persecution of civil society, and eliminate the use of anti-extremism laws against voices of dissent. The U.S. government should encourage Russia to stand with those who fight intolerance, not those who perpetrate it. Add your name!

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Published on August 21, 2012

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