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Why You Should Care About the Pussy Riot Verdict

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Aug 17, 2012 | 8:41am EDT

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Yes, Pussy Riot sounds like a dirty word and it's a shame that most newspapers shy away from it because it's all everyone is going to be talking about today. Just what is a Pussy Riot and why should you care about it?

Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock band that performed a song with lyrics critical to President Vladimir on the altar of a Russian Orthodox church (a video of the performance is below). The three women were arrested for "hooliganism" in March and put in jail for several months awaiting a verdict. Today they were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison for the protest.

So, why should we care about three Russian women misbehaving in a church? Pussy Riot is a small part of growing anti-government sentiment in Russia which could eventually have a huge impact on international politics. But of course protests and marches don't make for every exciting news, but three young women in masks pissing off the government makes for a much better headline. Thanks to their celebrity proponents like Madonna (who expressed that they should be freed when performing in Moscow earlier this year) and Sting, Pussy Riot has become a lot more famous than any other dissidents and a symbol for a growing movement in the country.

Anyone that cares about free speech should care about Pussy Riot. Sure, they were charged with "hooliganism" but their real crime was speaking out against Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is supporting his third run for president. While Russian espouses to be a democracy, if people aren't allowed to speak and create art freely, than there is no liberty in the country. Fighting for Pussy Riot is a fight for freedom everywhere. Even if they were found guilty of breaking the law, two years in jail for one song seems a bit harsh.

Ever since there arrests there have been constant protests to free them in Russia, including loud protests outside the courtroom today where police were arresting participants (including outspoken government oppositionist and chess legend Gary Kasparov). There have also been arrests as Pussy Riot protests at the Russian consulate in New York, and there have been protests today in London and other major cities. This is no longer just a Russian problem, but an international incident. And anyone who cares about free speech and international politics should have an opinion about it. [Photo credit: WENN.com]

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