Sunday, October 07, 2012

Free Pussy Riot!

Pussy Riot. Whether you've heard the name said by news anchors struggling to maintain professionalism whilst saying the word 'pussy', or whether you have heard it chanted in solidarity - the name has been on many lips. Throughout history men and women have been locked away or severely punished for speaking or working against their government. Pussy Riot are the latest in a long line of strong men and women who have been made to pay a harsh price for airing their political views. The feminist punk band were sentenced to two years in jail in August (2012) for speaking out against President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.


Throughout history men and women have been locked away or severely punished for speaking or working against their government.

 On Thursday the 4th of October a number of students, led and organised by Cate Bell, staged a protest in the University of Auckland Quad. The protest involved a number of students sitting inside a cage as a symbol of Pussy Riot's imprisonment, whilst the other students spent the day encouraging fellow students to write and sign letters of protest to both the Russian ambassador in NZ and the prosecutor general in the case. The Auckland based punk band "Penny Dreadfuls" played in the quad with one of their songs written about and dedicated to Pussy Riot.

“This is part of the continued silencing of dissent in the country, in a concerning shift to heavy hand state practices reminiscent of Stalinist totalitarianism,” said Cate Bell. “Pussy Riot’s struggle also cannot be separated from the New Zealand government’s treatment of political dissent such as in the cases of Tame Iti and Rangi Kemara. The protest aims to demonstrate the similarities between the two governments’ treatment of political prisoners and to engage debate surrounding the concerning trend of western government’s when dealing with dissenting political opinion.”


The Auckland based punk band "Penny Dreadfuls" played in the quad with one of their songs written about and dedicated to Pussy Riot.

Approaching students for signatures can occasionally be difficult with apathy and cynicism being barriers to wider political involvement and the growth of political movement on campus.

"Excuse me, do you believe in freedom of speech?"

"Nah.." came the reply as the student I had approached pushed passed me.

However many students were very supportive and either knew and had been following the Pussy Riot case or were eager to learn more. Many were shocked that in an era where 'freedom of speech' is a right many expect and enjoy, people engaging into political discourse - people exercising that right, were being jailed and punished. We ended up with over 700 letters to send away. This is not just an attack on the band, but it a threat to all political activists who continue to speak out against their government. It is crucial that we show solidarity, speak out in support and urge governments around the world to free ALL political prisoners.

- Stacey H. ~ Politics student at University of Auckland

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