“Free, free Pussy Riot! Free, free Pussy Riot” Their chants could be heard from blocks away. Outside the massive compound that is the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C., human rights activists and punk rockers came together to protest the wrongful imprisonment of Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot.
Most protesters donned brightly colored balaclavas (ski masks) which has become the symbol of the imprisoned women who make up Pussy Riot. All were carrying signs, joining in the chants, and showing their distaste for the Russian government while news organizations, including yours truly, tried to capture as many photos and videos as they could to help get the message out to the world.
The protest started with a march outside the gates of the Russian Embassy where protesters marched in circle outside the entrance while screaming and yelling various chants including “Free, free Pussy Riot,” “What do we want? Freedom. When do we want it? Now,” and “Nadezhda, Maria, Ekaterina. We will never leave you”. This was all accompanied by a drum played by a member of the D.C. punk band Brenda, as well as speeches from human rights activists on what is going on with the Pussy Riot injustice and what can be done to help.
After about an hour, D.C. Metro Police along with Secret Service moved in to tell the group that they would have to move across the street from the Embassy, while they blocked off the street and the protesters set up on the opposite sidewalk.
The rally continued for another hour or so with more chants, speeches, and some down time for different people to get to know each other and exchange ideas and stories about Pussy Riot. As the Amnesty International group that had organized the event was cleaning up, and protesters remained holding signs and showing their resolve at bringing as much attention to this cause as they could.
Meanwhile, one group of protesters began scheming out their next move.
Before anyone, including the D.C. police, could stop them, some of the protesters sprinted across the street to the embassy entrance, pulled their pants down, and gave the building and passing cars a full moon, with the words “Free Pussy Riot” written across the line of butts. Police quickly moved in and dispersed the group, who was met with cheers and high fives as they returned to the rest of the protesters.
Groups stayed long after the Amnesty International hosts had left and thanked everyone for coming, still holding signs, still leading cheers, and still occupying space outside the Russian Embassy in hopes that the message would be seen in Russia and around the world that people are outraged about the imprisonment of Pussy Riot.
This was the first of what will most likely be many protests in Washington, D.C. supporting Pussy Riot. The event attracted a decent crowd for what was supposed to be a miserable day of thunderstorms. The rally organized the gatherers to get fired up about Pussy Riot’s imprisonment, and to let that anger be heard. For many, it was quite fun rocking balaclavas and “Free Pussy Riot” signs, and protesting an embassy that looks like a military compound.