Russian punk activists win support from D.C. counterparts
By Tomi Obaro,
The name is designed to attract attention. And the Russian punk-rock feminist collective that bears it has certainly received its fair share ever since three of its 25 members were arrested earlier this year following a piece of performance art at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Five masked women asked the Virgin Mary to save Russia from President Vladimir Putin’s imminent third term, and their arrests provoked an outcry from various human rights groups. Celebrities such as Sting and members of the indie band Franz Ferdinand have voiced their solidarity with the group, known as Pussy Riot.
Now District-based performance artist Andrea Collins hopes to involve the Washington social-justice community with a planned protest and concert Friday evening outside the Russian Embassy.
In collaboration with Amnesty International, Collins and local activists will advocate for the immediate release of Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who face up to seven years in prison on charges of hooliganism.
Collins, who has been a follower of the Eastern European rock music scene since she co-edited a journal about political music in 2005, said in an interview Thursday that she first heard about the arrests through Voina, a Russian street art group. Compelled to take action, she set up an installation, “Punks in the Sanctuary,” at Artomatic in Crystal City last month, where she invited passersby to reenact the protest song that got the band members arrested and sign a petition asking for the women’s release.
The protest will begin at 4:30 p.m. and is slated to be followed by live performances from local bands Show Pony, Brenda, Priests and Harrison Four. Where the performances will take place remains to be seen. A permit to use the field across from the Russian Embassy was denied Thursday afternoon.
Even with that kink, Collins says she is excited about getting the local community involved.
Dave Lesser and Leah Gage of the local punk band Brenda even got their band to reunite in order to play the show.
“The D.C. punk music scene has really taken this on,” Gage said. “Several bands are interested in performing; people want to be a part of it.”
“We feel privileged to play freely,” Lesser added.
The protest will also include remarks from a small number of District activists, including Mark Anderson from Positive Force, a group that works with youth enhancement, and Philippa Hughes, founder of the Pink Line Project, a D.C. arts blog.
“It sounds corny, but it’s important for Washington to weigh in with all the other big cities,” Collins said. “The whole world is watching.”