Local Current Blog

Pussy Riot members support calls to dismiss cases against Wisconsin protesters

It’s been a tumultuous year for the members of Russian protest rock band Pussy Riot, who attracted international attention for being attacked by authorities in Sochi during the Olympic Games and have more recently attacked by a group of angry men while eating in a Russian McDonald’s. Group members Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, however, found time to take notice of what’s being described by protesters as similar intimidation by authorities on the other side of the world: right next door to us in Wisconsin.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova voice their support in a video published yesterday by the Voice Project, a nonprofit organization that “works to defend freedom of expression for artists + activists and amplify efforts that utilize the power of music to effect positive social change, alleviate suffering and promote human rights around the globe.” The organization was founded four years ago by Hunter Heaney and Peter Gabriel’s adult daughter Anna, originally in support of efforts to remove child soldiers from African conflicts. The organization went on to organize an international legal-aid fund in support of Pussy Riot during the artists’ 2012-2013 incarceration in Russia.

“We started with wanting to amplify efforts where music was making the most significant and measurable impact on the world, and we’re still doing that,” says Heaney in a press release. “But as we branched out into other parts of the globe, we’ve found with increasing frequency that freedom of expression is under attack. And without that foundational right, efforts to use art and music to effect social change can’t even begin. So we’ve dedicated ourselves to this fight and we’re going in full force, rolling up our sleeves to help on these issues like we did with Pussy Riot, like we’re doing now with Wisconsin. And there will be more to come. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of cases.”

The video calls upon Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to dismiss cases against protesters arrested last summer at the Wisconsin State Capitol as they sang in protest of the moves Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken to limit the scope and power of public employees’ labor unions. According to the Voice Project, over 400 protesters were arrested in 2013.

The Voice Project is asking supporters to sign a petition to Van Hollen to dismiss the cases against protesters facing fines and other consequences in the wake of their arrests. “Use music to change the world in the direction you want it to change,” says Tolokonnikova in the video (per the Russian translation by the video producers). “Because music touches people and makes them act.”