Monday, August 20, 2012

We Stand With You

For me saying this generally isn't a political blog, I'm once again getting rather political. Probably because I attended my first protest on Friday afternoon.


The band, Pussy Riot (http://upload.wikimedia.org)
It was small, but it was effective and totally worth attending. On Friday, it was announced that the Russian punk band Pussy Riot had been sentenced for their 40 second protest against Putin in an Orthodox church (called an act of "hooliganism" and "blasphemy") and received two years in a penal colony for their actions. (You can read more about online if you want more info; just Google "Pussy Riot sentencing" and loads of news articles will come up. Or read this blog post.) Here in Minneapolis, a young woman organized a spontaneous protest in response to the extremeness of their sentencing and to spread awareness about the issue. My friend Sarah, who studied in Russia this summer and is headed back this fall for another nine months abroad, found out about the protest and invited me to come along with her and our friend Kelsey. And I couldn't resist.

I'm not unfamiliar with Pussy Riot; I heard about them earlier this year from Sarah, who blogged about them in May, and we discuss Russian politics quite a bit as roommates last year. So naturally I was interested to show my support at the protest. Also, as a feminist, I wanted to show my support of women voicing their opinions against a government that is... shall we say, complicated. And being a writer, I wanted to stand up for free speech. Which is not always such an easy thing to do. In my everyday life, while I decry Archie Bland's editorial and wish fandoms were more careful about their words, I can't deny that they have every right to say what they say. Of course, while I wish people would not say certain things and be intelligent and empathetic enough to know the power of their words, they still have the right to say what they want. There is nothing worse to me than having your voiced silenced or being unable to speak up (and I've had too many instances of this in my life, as mundane as they are compared to the real suppression that occurs elsewhere) and I knew that if I let this opportunity to support such speech go past me, I'd regret it. So protest time it was.


I was pleasantly surprised by how many people knew about the issue (and yet was rather put out when one woman didn't even know who Putin was). We only received one negative comment in my time there (and that was from a woman who was very upset that we had the words "Pussy Riot" in a "family area," as if we had any control over the name of the band. And since when was the Stone Arch Bridge a "family area?" It's a public pedestrian bridge... whatever. Free speech, right? She can say whatever she thinks). We wore face masks like the band does, as you can see from the above pictures, which they wore to show they could be any woman in Russia. And while we stood there over the Mississippi river, it was really cool to think that elsewhere across the world, others were doing exactly the same thing as us.

Protest in London (http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com)
So while I continue on my politically ambiguous trek through life, it's nice to know that I can still express my opinions, especially on an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I felt I was also doing some good. As Garry Kasparov said in this op-ed, "If you live in a democracy you have a voice. Do not waste it."

2 comments:

  1. Good quote, the Kasparov piece is good. I had forgotten to mention something about the laws in my post. The occupiers in Kazan were protesting a new law that upped the fine for protesting from 80 rubles to 9000 rubles "overnight...while we were sleeping."

    I like what he said about discussing the length of the prison term as not being concerned enough, even though it seems to invalidate my post. But the way he spins it, with Putin not caring about the press, seems to be true--and is much more relevant than the length of their prison term, in reality.

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    1. Yeah, I like the Kasparov piece too. My dad was listening to an interview of him on TV and was surprised to hear him say that people in Russia do not support Putin as much as it may seem. Knowing what I know about Russia it isn't a surprise but I think the sentencing of Pussy Riot makes it clearer why more people don't voice these opinions - especially given you info about the rise in fine for protesting.

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