What Pussy Riot Did Probably Wouldn’t Be a Crime in The US

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Credit: pussy-riot.livejournal.com/[/caption]

Members of Russian punk band, Pussy Riot were given harsh two year sentences in prison for performing street theatre critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the steps of a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow.

To be clear, the band did not enter the church, destroy property, attack anyone, nor incite a riot. Rather, the band sang and danced on the steps of a cathedral. While they might have been rousted by police in the US for doing so (and even that is debatable) they almost certainly would not have been charged with serious crimes or been sent to prison. Instead, Pussy Riot might have been charged with a minor misdemeanor for violating noise permits, if that. More probably, police in the US would have allowed them to finish rather than storming the steps and grabbing them. Quite possibly, US police might not have thought their performance even needed to be broken up.

I say this as one who helped organize many protests, sometimes quite large, in Los Angeles. Some of these protests involved street theater similar to what Pussy Riot did. While things sometimes got quite tense with LAPD, they never tried to break up protests as happened in Moscow. The loose understanding with LAPD was don’t block streets, sidewalks, or harass counter-protesters. Then you have could have a street corner protest. Six women singing and dancing on cathedral steps would hardly qualify as a protest in the US.

This tweet by Julia Loffe, a journalist in Moscow, highlights what perhaps is the real reason for the harsh sentences. The authorities and Putin are alarmed at rising levels of protest and dissent and wish to send a message trying to scare others off from protesting too.

This YouTube video shows the performance by Pussy Riot on the steps of the cathedral, with lyrics. Yes, they are sending a political message too, one that, due to overreaction by Russian authorities, went viral across the planet and turned an unknown punk band into an international cause célèbre.

St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!
Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners are crawling and bowing
The ghost of freedom is in heaven
Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains
The head of the KGB is their chief saint
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend the Holy
Women have to give birth and to love