Los Angeles Protest Targets Pussy Riot Convictions in Russia | NBC Southern California

Los Angeles Protest Targets Pussy Riot Convictions in Russia

Local protest reacts to ruling in Moscow on female punk band members who criticized Putin

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    Three feminist punk rockers from Russia, two of them mothers with young children, were sentenced to two years in jail for a performance in a Moscow church that was critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Groups around the world, including on Hollywood Boulevard, gathered to protest the band's punishment. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 17, 2012. (Published Friday, Aug. 17, 2012)

    Southern California supporters of the Russian band Pussy Riot planned a protest in Hollywood Friday morning, just hours after members of the punk rock group were sentenced to two years in prison in Moscow.

    The local protest was slated to take place at 10 a.m. at World Wonder Studios at Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue. A march was then scheduled to move to Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

    The protest, shown in part below, comes after a Moscow judge sentenced each of three female band members to two years in prison on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."

    The trial had gained much attention around the world, where many saw it as an emblem of Russia's intolerance of political dissent under President Vladimir Putin. Global human rights organization Amnesty International had dubbed the Pussy Riot trio "prisoners of conscience."

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    Prosecutors had sought a three-year sentence for the women who stormed the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in March wearing bright ski masks, tights and short skirts to hold a "punk prayer" to get rid of Putin.

    Putin was elected to a third term two weeks later.

    The group — consisting of about 10 members who appear in public for impromptu performances described as protest art — believes that the verdict signals a larger problem with freedom of speech in the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago.

    "Our imprisonment is a clear and distinct sign that the whole country's freedom is being taken away," band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, said in a letter written in jail and posted on the Internet by her lawyer.

    In the Moscow courtroom Friday, Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, stood in handcuffs in a glass cage as the judge took three hours to read the verdict.

    The judge recounted testimony of prosecution witnesses accusing them of sacrilege and "devilish dances'' in church.

    Tolokonnikova laughed out loud when the judge read the testimony of a psychologist who said that her "active stance on social issues'' was an anomaly in the country.

    The three women remained calm and kept smiling after the judge announced the sentence. Someone in the courtroom shouted "Shame!''

    Outside, hundreds of Pussy Riot supporters chanted "down with the police state'' when the sentence was announced. Dozens of the protesters were detained by Russian authorities.

    Meanwhile, other protests in support of Pussy Riot erupted Friday in support of Pussy Riot. Pop star Madonna, who had been among many celebrities publicly addressing the trial, showing her support by painting "Pussy Riot" on her back for her show in Moscow.

    According to NBC News, Putin had said the women's punishment should not be too harsh.

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