Friday, August 17, 2012

Nudity, masks and color: Protests for Pussy Riot

PARIS (AP) — They asked for undies on heads, masks, and as much color as possible on Friday. They got a topless activist hacking down a cross in Ukraine, balaclavas on Soviet-era statues of soldiers in Bulgaria, and signs for "Justice" in Spain.
Organizers of protests in more than three dozen cities around the world are hoping thousands of others will turn out in raucous support of Pussy Riot, the Russian provocateurs who were convicted of hooliganism in Moscow.
The three women in the band, who have been in jail for more than five months because of a guerrilla performance denouncing President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral, face a maximum seven years in prison when they are sentenced later Friday.
Protesters in Paris, at Igor Stravinsky square near the Centre Pompidou modern art museum, echoed those outside the Moscow courthouse, chanting "Svoboda! Svoboda!" or "Freedom! Freedom!"
In Ukraine, four feminist activists, one of them topless, used a chainsaw to hack down a wooden cross in Kiev's central square in a show of support.
"A cross is a symbol of the repressive religious prejudice that supports dictatorship. Now people who worship the cross want to jail the innocent," said Anna Gutsol, leader of the group that chopped down the nearly 6-meter (18-foot) tall cross put into place during Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
In Sofia, Bulgaria, supporters of Pussy Riot dressed statues on a Soviet-era monument in colorful balaclavas similar to those worn by demonstrators in Moscow.
Celebrities including Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bjork have called for the band to be freed. Germany's top human rights official, Markus Loening, joined them Friday, saying their detention had already been "fully disproportionate."
The trial on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred has attracted worldwide attention as an emblem of Russia's intolerance of dissent.
Protests are planned outside Russian embassies in Washington and capitals around Europe.
About 150 people demonstrated outside the Russian Embassy in Berlin. One sign showed a photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel embracing Putin with the message: "He hasn't earned it."
The crowd cheered and blew whistles as a woman on stage, wearing a pink balaclava, shouted her message to Moscow through a megaphone: "The world is watching you and we don't like what we see — we are all Pussy Riot."
In Serbia, while anti-Putin activists plan protests in Belgrade, a Serbian far-right group has taken Putin's side. The group Nasi has launched an online game targeting the Pussy Riot members, and says on its website that the women should be sent to the hospital for psychiatric treatment.
Associated Press reporters Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, Anna Melnichuk in Kiev, Ukraine, David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

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