THE BLOG
17/08/2012 06:24 BST | Updated 16/10/2012 06:12 BST

Pussy Riot Day of Action

Though many have speculated that Judge Syrova's decision was a foregone conclusion, on Friday 17 August, all eyes will be fixed on Russia to see the fate of the Pussy Rioters.

Though many have speculated that Judge Syrova's decision was a foregone conclusion, on Friday 17 August, all eyes will be fixed on Russia to see the fate of the Pussy Rioters.

Unless you have been away on a sabbatical in the middle of the Amazon forest, you will know that after a 30 second protest performance in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested on March of this year and charged with hooliganism and inciting religious hatred. Their song contained the lyrics "Virgin Mary, chase Putin Out".

Rightfully, the 6 month long pre-trial detention of the three and the alleged disregard for trial procedure has angered the international community and galvenised many causes to rally in their support; across the globe, many protests have been organised for to coincide with the day the verdict is due.

In New York, from 9am - 2pm, there is an entire day of action - jointly organised by Fair Vote For Russia - NYC, Permanent Wave NYC, Occupy Wall Street-Music Working Group/Occupy Guitarmy, a coalition of feminist musicians/activists/culture workers, In Our Hearts, and many others.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Xenia Grubstein, a seasoned Russian Journalist living in New York and part of the Fair Vote For Russia-NYC chapter. I asked her about the day and its purpose:

"Though I may not agree with their aesthetic, the way the three have been treated has been unjustifiably harsh. A disturbance like this shouldn't even be met with 15 day's jail or community service but the fact that Putin's name was mentioned made a political issue. Anyone who respects freedom of speech or justice will not allow such a thing to stand."

Though the trial has drummed up support from the likes of Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney to name but a few, it's important not to forget the reason why this demonstration occurred in the first place. After winning the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, Vladimir Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term and so he stepped down to allow Dmitry Medvedev to run and win the 2008 elections; leaving Putin to become Prime minister (a role he previously held from 1999-2000). Although Medvedev's Presidency led to period in Russia of a tandemocracy, where the President and Putin were seen to have equal political power, people were still hopeful that they were witnessing political change.

All this was dashed dramatically in September 2011 when Putin and Medvedev announced that the former presidential incumbent was to run for a third, though not consecutive, term. This sparked demonstration by the people of Russia, angered by the insulting political maneuver that amounted to nothing more than a seat-warming exercise to sidestep the literal letter of the Russian Constitution. Indeed, this was known in Russia as "rokirovka" or castling - after the chess move, where the king and the castle merely swap places.

Fair Vote for Russia and its many chapters have been staging synchronised monthly protests, since December 2011, across the globe in order to bring attention to this appalling disregard for free and fair representation in government. Protests have also been quite fervent within Russia from that date, though Putin's administration have been cracking down on demonstrations. "From February until now, there has been a decline in the frequency of protests because of Putin's rushed legislations". Indeed, since his return, Putin has passed many laws that seem to halt Russia's progression. Anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny and ultra-leftist Sergei Udaltsov were among the many arrested in protests on the eve of Putin's inauguration - 16 others still remain in detention. Since then, Navalny and Udaltsov have been arrested and have had their homes raided in order to disrupt protests.

Putin and Russia are all holding their breath. On the one hand, the three could be released and the 6 months detention could be seen as a time served; at least, as Xenia Grubstein put it, "this will give the people of Russia hope in the legal process; that they're legal demonstrations can yield something. It will encourage the people of Russia to demonstrate against the injustices that they are facing." However, many are pretty sure that the three will not only be found guilty but may face another 1-3 years in prison purely to make an example of anti-Putin demonstrators. Though the only example this may show is the lack of justice in Putin's Russia.

What's important to remember is that this is a government that has strong political, military and economic weight and so we the people can only hope for pleasant platitudes from international political leaders such as Obama and Cameron that will allow them to show their displeasure without undermining their political relationship with Moscow. But if we have learned anything from the Libyans and Tunisians is that no matter how strong a regime is, it is our duty as citizens to bring leaders into account when they slowly turn into tyrants. And if we shout loud enough and long enough, we will be heard.

If you are in the NYC area and you would like to show your support, details can be found at allriot.com