Pussy Riot for Canadians

A punk performance art collective called Pussy Riot performed an anti-Putin song flash-mob-style in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral on my birthday this year. For this, three Rioters have spent five months in jail and face seven years in prison. We all know how corrupt and incompetent the Russian legal and political systems are, but I thought this should be of particular interest to the feminist and punk communities I came up in.

Here is a statement by Nadia, a band member, that patiently explains the importance of free speech, performance art, punk and feminism, while elegantly distinguishing between doing things people dislike and committing a crime. That is much the same debate that rages in Toronto around graffiti; is it art or is it a crime? Who gets to decide?

I also see a link between this case and what’s happening in Quebec. Is Pussy Riot’s right to free speech stronger than the right of congregants not to be interrupted in their church? Pussy Riot were charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred“, a law that seems reasonable until you see its application in this case. Law 78 in Quebec also sounds reasonable: the bill that brought that law into effect is officially named “An Act to enable students to receive¬†instruction from the postsecondary¬†institutions they attend“. It’s application so far, I would argue, has been anything but reasonable.

While some violence mars the protest (please see my upcoming feature in the United Church Observer for more on that), is trashing a constitutional right justified in the face of a largely peaceful movement, where there have been no deaths and only one major injury that I know of, that of a protestor who alleges his eye was permanently damaged by a police stun grenade? (The president of the Quebec Bar Association didn’t think so; the editorial staff at the Montreal Gazette do.)

Point is: just because it’s far away doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. Also: Pussy Riot are the bomb.¬†And someone please knit me a balaclava.

About xokasia

Journalist, writer, editor, in Toronto and New York. Amateur Muay Thai enthusiast.
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2 Responses to Pussy Riot for Canadians

  1. Joanna says:

    Can’t get your link to Nadia’s statement to work for me but I did find it elsewhere online and it’s fascinating. Thanks for pointing me to it.

  2. xokasia says:

    Thanks for letting me know, Joanna, I’ve fixed the link now. Thanks for reading! xok

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