Spencer Kellogg | @TheNewTreasury
“We live in a country that can do away with a person” -Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Four members of the Russian punk band and anarchist protest art group Pussy Riot are being held in a Russian prison tonight after they ran onto the field during the second half of the World Cup Final between Croatia & France. In a sight that stunned viewers and saw players pushing and grabbing at the dissenters, three women and one man were hurried off the field as President Putin watched on from the boxes above.
For fans of soccer around the world, it was a confusing and frustrating moment that broke up tense action in the 52nd minute of play. But to those who have watched Pussy Riot gain notoriety for their public acts of protest, this was the culmination of a roughly decade-long chain of demonstrations that have demanded free speech, LBTQ rights, and shown direct vocal opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pussy Riot claimed responsibility for the protest on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
The group first made headlines on February 12th, 2012 when they broke into Saviour Cathedral in Moscow and proceeded to perform a “punk prayer” in front of the altar. Three of the women were arrested on charges of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison which they described as “endless humiliation“ upon release.
They would find the media spotlight again when they attempted to perform in front of an Olympic sign at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. In a video that went viral around the world, Russian Cossacks used horsewhips to attack the members of Pussy Riot for exercising their speech. Two members were arrested on charges of theft but were released in hopes of assuaging what had been sustained criticism from journalists regarding free speech rights in Russia ahead of the games.
Of all the protests that Pussy Riot have organized, this was by far their most prolific yet. In front of a relaxed looking Vladimir Putin, Pussy Riot again used the global stage to point out the lack of free speech and religious tolerance in their home country. On their 2014 appearance with Charlie Rose, Maria Alyokhina explained the group’s philosophy: “[Putin] is a person that built his power through the power of fear… Attempts to intimidate us don’t have any result because we don’t want to operate in the system. We want to create a new system where the priority is given to freedom and truth.”
Teenage star Kylian Mbappe gave one of the protestors a high five before she was driven to the ground by security.
Was this the best #WolrdCup final? Lots of goals, lots of craziness, both teams with plenty to be proud of, Mbappe high fiving a Pussy Riot pitch invader.
A beautiful game. pic.twitter.com/MK91bZGpdJ
— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) July 15, 2018
71 Republic’s staff will be following this story as it develops and heads to trial.
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