Pussy Riot convicted: Britain rails against “disproportionate” sentence - hypocritically

Pussy Riot convicted: Britain rails against “disproportionate” sentence - hypocritically

The UK also has no qualms over disproportionate sentencing or criminal sanctions for occupational protest.

Three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years of imprisonment in a penal colony, following a protest-performance in a Russian Orthodox church. Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were all arrested after a video of the performance, which was interrupted by security, was posted online.

The clearly politically-motivated trial has attracted a great deal of international attention, as well as galvanising protest inside Russia. Solidarity protests have been held in front of the court (which saw Gary Kasparov, among others, being arrested), and at Russian embassies. Amnesty international has classified the group as “prisoners of conscience”.

The severity of their sentence for hooliganism aggravated by religious hatred has led to condemnations from a number of countries, including the US, Sweden and Germany. British foreign office minister Alistair Burt joined in, adding “I am deeply concerned by the sentencing of three members of the band Pussy Riot, which can only be considered a disproportionate response to an expression of political belief … Today's verdict calls into question Russia's commitment to protect these fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Britain of course is not above “disproportionate” sentences for political activity. Anti-cuts protester Omar Ibrahim was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for picking up a joke-shop smoke bomb from the pavement during last march's anti-cuts demonstration an tossing it towards Topshop. No-one was harmed, but he was imprisoned for violent disorder.

Protesters committing the exact same “crime” as Pussy Riot – entering a property and protesting, in this case at Fortnum and Mason's – were arrested (after being told be the police that they wouldn't be if they left without a fuss), charged, and in the case of a number of defendants, convicted of aggravated trespass.

More recently, British anarchists returning from the St. Imier congress were detained by anti-terror police on the basis of their politics.

“Disproportion” in sentencing was also a very deliberate policy following last summer's riots.

Two men were jailed for four years for posting pages on facebook encouraging riots. One, Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, posted a page while drunk encouraging rioting, removed it and apologised when he woke up the next morning. No rioting took place. PM David Cameron defended the severity of the sentence.

Similarly, one man in Manchester, Anderson Fernandes, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for walking through the open door of an ice cream shop during the riots and taking one lick of ice cream.

Another North – West case was that of Stephen Carter, who picked up a bag of clothes he found in bushes in Salford. As these had been previously been looted, he was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Such sentences are accepted to be enormous by western standards for public order offences.

The hypocrisy becomes even more galling when we consider the ongoing US practice of indefinite detention without trial, and European collusion in the rendition of terror suspects.

In the case of the US, UK, EU and other European countries, such criticism is much more likely motivated by geopolitical concerns than anything else.

Comments

Chilli Sauce
Aug 18 2012 16:27

Great post Django.

Spikymike
Aug 18 2012 16:39

Well most of the western government and celebrity protests have been for there own purposes of course and noteably about the 'disproportionate' nature of the sentences rather than the whole rotten affair involving collusion between the state authorities and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The role of that church in both assisting and encouraging deeply conservative and authoritarian measures (even by the usual capitalist standards) is not new as recent homophobic legislation attests to. In this they are only competing it seems with other fundamentalist protestant sects that have started to get a foothold over there.

'Pussy Riot' may not hate these scum but this experience has certainly reinforced my own hatred for them.

PS: The R.Orthodox Church does have a sprinkling of churches over here in the UK as well.

ComradeAppleton
Aug 18 2012 17:49

In today's world anyone who doesn't lick the government's boots is "violent" and "rioting". I was assaulted by police more than once and then told I was acting in a violent manner. Every state is the same, there is no point of asking for justice from the Eton boys who run the UK government any more than there is asking for justice from Obama or Putin. All scum smells alike.

qbbmvrjsssdd
Aug 19 2012 07:24

I want to start a Pussy Riot imitation band

Malva
Aug 19 2012 08:21

This whole event reminded me of the Lettrist prank in Paris. It was Easter Sunday in the 1950s, they got dressed up as priests and then walked into Notre Dame cathedral just before the Sunday service with the Swiss guard and tv cameras etc. there. Then one of them climbed on to the podium and started giving a sermon declaring the death of God. When they realised it wasn't a real sermon the crowd went to attack them, a Swiss guard managed to cut one of the guys on the face with a weapon and ironically they were only saved by the police as they rushed out of the building. It was a massive scandal, much bigger than this.

ComradeAppleton
Aug 19 2012 08:57
Malva wrote:
It was a massive scandal, much bigger than this.

You should have seen the prank I pulled at a religious conference at my university (now former university). There was this big serious "inter-faith" meeting going on and I arrived pretending to be a serious worshiper of the goddess Athena. I though about it for a while and decided if I ever prayed to any god, it would either be Athena, Hermes, or (George Carlin's favorite) Joe Pesci. I eventually went with Athena.
You would not believe what a great time I had. A lot of the people there eventually realized I was pretending, but they had to take me seriously because otherwise it would make all the other religions look just as stupid. So I pushed on, making up all kinds of ridiculous claims and rituals and talking about this stuff with actual Catholic priests and other people who were there. I will treasure that evening forever. It was the best prank I pulled on religious people to date.
Having said that, I don't think we need to be malicious, disrespectful, or hostile towards the religious. It's enough to just laugh at them a little smile

Malva
Aug 19 2012 09:47

Yes, it is interesting that now religion is going through its final death throws its various organised forms are coming together as an "inter-faith" in order to shore each other up. Ironically, as you imply, it makes it easier to critique the lot of them as a totality.

soc
Aug 20 2012 14:06
Malva wrote:
Yes, it is interesting that now religion is going through its final death throws its various organised forms are coming together as an "inter-faith" in order to shore each other up. Ironically, as you imply, it makes it easier to critique the lot of them as a totality.

Do you think that religion is at its final demise? That is quite an optimism there, mate!

Malva
Aug 20 2012 14:27

Well it is certainly dying in its big institutional forms, but as for the idea of God - and I suppose some weaker institutional expressions - I think that will carry on as an archaic, and marginal, form of fetishism until hierarchical social relationships are abolished in general. I mean the Catholic church is not exactly now what it was in the 12th century.

soc
Aug 20 2012 16:00
Malva wrote:
Well it is certainly dying in its big institutional forms, but as for the idea of God - and I suppose some weaker institutional expressions - I think that will carry on as an archaic, and marginal, form of fetishism until hierarchical social relationships are abolished in general. I mean the Catholic church is not exactly now what it was in the 12th century.

All right, the Catholic church isn't what it use to be in the 12th century, of course. But look at the bigger picture: The human race is more numerous than ever. The ebbing religious fervour in Europe is one thing: the world is way bigger than Europe. And also, from a Londoner perspective, that from the East London Mosque of Whitechapel, through the Hasidic Clapton/Stamford Hill, to the Pentecostal/Catholic dominated Tottenham I personally can not testify in favour of receding organized religion.

Sure, the white English population experience a steadily declining of the religious institutionalism, but in the mean time I see success of the different Evangelical churches all around. My ex-boss even changed from porn channel to BelieveTV at one point. In my neighbourhood there's a UCKG (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Pentecostal church, which is in top 10 earner in Brazil!!!!) just in front of the St Ignacius Church. Not so far away there's a synagogue. In my street and the next street there are two small, humble Church of England churches, less active, but still active. Back in Hungary people are going nuts, especially in the last 10 years. East-Europe, as this current case is also shows in Russia, there's a steadily growing influence of the historical churches and from what I saw in Hungary I could tell that in this millennia the evangelical/pentecostal churches are also on the rise, big time. And then I didn't talk about the entire populations of Asia, Africa, or the Americas.

But this deserves an own thread...

Steven.
Aug 21 2012 08:01

Good opinion piece on pussy riot:

Quote:
Pussy Riot’s fans in the West need to understand that their heroes’ dissent will not stop at Putin; neither will it stop if and when Russia becomes a “normal” liberal democracy. Because what Pussy Riot wants is something that is equally terrifying, provocative and threatening to the established order in both Russia and the West (and has been from time immemorial): freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, religion, conventional morality, inequality and the entire corporate state system. We should only support these brave women if we, too, are brave enough to go all the way.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/opinion/the-wrong-reasons-to-back-pussy-riot.html?_r=3

ComradeAppleton
Aug 21 2012 11:49
Malva wrote:
Well it is certainly dying in its big institutional forms

This has been true ever since the Reformation (or, as it should be called, the introduction of anarchy into religious matters). The old idea of God has been dying off too. Most people now just vaguely refer to some sort of intangible "universal spirit" as God. It's still naive and ridiculous, but it's no longer so important because (except in the US) very few people treat God as a rational being and include the belief in him/her in making any real life decisions.

Devrim
Aug 21 2012 12:20
ComradeAppleton wrote:
...but it's no longer so important because (except in the US) very few people treat God as a rational being and include the belief in him/her in making any real life decisions.

Western Europe isn't the world.

Devrim

jonthom
Aug 21 2012 12:24
ComradeAppleton wrote:
Malva wrote:
Well it is certainly dying in its big institutional forms

This has been true ever since the Reformation (or, as it should be called, the introduction of anarchy into religious matters).

confused what on earth are you talking about? the reformation (at least in the UK, I'm less familiar with it elsewhere) was basically a power conflict between the king on the one hand and the papacy on the other. where you get "anarchy" from this I have no idea.

(unless of course you're referring to the links between protestantism and individualism, that is. in which case calling this "anarchy" is, at the very least, inadequate...)

Quote:
The old idea of God has been dying off too. Most people now just vaguely refer to some sort of intangible "universal spirit" as God. It's still naive and ridiculous, but it's no longer so important because (except in the US) very few people treat God as a rational being and include the belief in him/her in making any real life decisions.

"Most people" in the West, maybe. I suspect the same isn't the case elsewhere, though.

ComradeAppleton
Aug 21 2012 12:46

By anarchy I meant the whole initial message of the Reformation movement: that no Church has a monopoly on interpreting the Bible and that no man is more holy than any other. Basically Luther's idea was that every man can be his own Pope. That's as anarchistic as you can possibly get.

Of course in England it was different because all that happened was the King replaced the Pope with himself... but that was going against the spirit of Reformation, not with it.

Similarly in politics, anarchists want is for every man to rule himself and every woman to rule herself. So we want in politics what took place in theology during the Reformation.

soc
Aug 21 2012 14:28
ComradeAppleton wrote:
By anarchy I meant the whole initial message of the Reformation movement: that no Church has a monopoly on interpreting the Bible and that no man is more holy than any other. Basically Luther's idea was that every man can be his own Pope. That's as anarchistic as you can possibly get.

Of course in England it was different because all that happened was the King replaced the Pope with himself... but that was going against the spirit of Reformation, not with it.

Similarly in politics, anarchists want is for every man to rule himself and every woman to rule herself. So we want in politics what took place in theology during the Reformation.

Sure mate... it was so anarchistic, that it gave the ideological background for the foundation of the modern states. Sure, it was a movement against the authority of the Pope (not just in the case of the English reformation but in general) but only to reinstate God as the only authority over the religious matters and therefore to merge the religious and civil authorities in government. Even if I could accept your anarchists=individualists formula, this gross misrepresentation of history tells volumes how misguided is your "anarchism". Also, you are talking about the puritanism of the protestant movement, but the Reformation included several different and more influential churches.

But I can see where is your fascination with the Lutheran theology coming from: You are a doctrinaire just as the Evangelical Christians are (sola scriptura). But to represent this retarded doctrinaire attitude as the sign of anarchism, that's just beyond me.

Cooked
Aug 21 2012 17:01
Steven. wrote:
Good opinion piece on pussy riot:
Quote:
Pussy Riot’s fans in the West need to understand that their heroes’ dissent will not stop at Putin; neither will it stop if and when Russia becomes a “normal” liberal democracy.

I was really hoping that Pussy Riot would say something that made the fawning liberal commentators choke on their op-eds. FFS one of the main swedish broadsheets illustrated a Pussy Riot story with two young swedish women in balaclavas wearing "liberal youth" t-shirts, no joke sad

knotwho
Aug 21 2012 18:26

On the religion thing, Yekaterina Samutsevich, one of the band members remarked

Quote:
That Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of the authorities was clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyayev took over as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be openly used as a flashy backdrop for the politics of the security forces, which are the main source of power [in Russia].

Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, the state-controlled corporations, or his menacing police system, or his obedient judiciary system. It may be that the harsh, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; that otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more persuasive, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the pinnacle of power. It was then that it became necessary to make use of the aesthetic of the Orthodox religion, which is historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

The rest of the statement is quite good.

ComradeAppleton
Aug 21 2012 20:15

Comrade soc,

You just don't understand what I'm talking about. You think I am in some way adovcating for or sympathizing with religion, where none of that is true. I am simply saying that rejecting authority of others in religious matters is analogous to rejecting the authority of others in political and moral matters (within these fields these are all types of anarchies, and an anarchist is a person who is free in all of them).

I am not trying to make any deep analysis of Luther or any bullshit like that. Luther was an authoritarian maniac in politics and morality, but he was one of the first anarchists in theology. That is he thought that each human being should be allowed to read and interpret the bible for himself/herself. This is exactly what I am saying needs to take place in the fields of morality and politics, so that anarchism can be reached.

Myk
Aug 22 2012 10:56

Decent article, raising some valid points but I have to say I was made a little angry from having personal involvement in the event mentioned below.

"Similarly, one man in Manchester, Anderson Fernandes, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for walking through the open door of an ice cream shop during the riots and taking one lick of ice cream."

-OK. Firstly, it wasn't an open door, it was a smashed window. Secondly, he also admitted, and was charged with the handling of stolen goods, though unrelated to the looting of the Patisserie Valerie (the cafe)

This guy was part of a group that chased terrified staff into a downstairs women's toilet and proceeded to try and kick down the door to attack them.
The only reason he was convicted of anything was because he happened to leave a cigarette butt behind, his DNA being on file from a recent offensive weapon and class A drugs possession charge.

Although 18 months may sound extreme to you on the grounds of his charge, to compare it to the Pussy Riot case itself I find disproportionate and offensive.

Melancholy of R...
Aug 22 2012 13:43

Oh look, this is the dailymail comments section now.
As for disproportionate sentences look no further than GB as mentioned in the article itself. Fuck, even fascist Arizona mocks us - http://azstarnet.com/news/world/places-where-trivial-acts-carry-harsh-penalties/article_da567f48-ce33-555e-8ff2-365ec6c38a28.html

Django
Aug 22 2012 16:21
Myk wrote:
Decent article, raising some valid points but I have to say I was made a little angry from having personal involvement in the event mentioned below.

"Similarly, one man in Manchester, Anderson Fernandes, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for walking through the open door of an ice cream shop during the riots and taking one lick of ice cream."

-OK. Firstly, it wasn't an open door, it was a smashed window. Secondly, he also admitted, and was charged with the handling of stolen goods, though unrelated to the looting of the Patisserie Valerie (the cafe)

This guy was part of a group that chased terrified staff into a downstairs women's toilet and proceeded to try and kick down the door to attack them.
The only reason he was convicted of anything was because he happened to leave a cigarette butt behind, his DNA being on file from a recent offensive weapon and class A drugs possession charge.

Although 18 months may sound extreme to you on the grounds of his charge, to compare it to the Pussy Riot case itself I find disproportionate and offensive

OK, so is the court report here wrong then?:

http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1456866_manchester-riots-looter-jailed-for-one-lick-of-a-stolen-coffee-ice-cream

It also says that the handling stolen goods charge was a seperate to the Patesserie Valerie one, so it doesn't change the reality of what he was convicted for, neither does his drug or weapon possession for previous charges (and similarly a member of Pussy Riot was part of a group which torched a police car, if we're discussing previous antics - the point being that there are definitely Russians online (and Brits, for that matter) arguing that this wasn't an act of free speech, it was a publicity stunt designed to cause maximum offence to Orthodox, they're violent extremists, blah blah).

xslavearcx
Aug 22 2012 20:34

I think the way luther went about his debates with zwingli, karstadt and muntzer would demonstrate that his biblicism was only kosher if ones reading of the bible was the same as his. not to mention his pauline reading of the bible promoted support for political authority of the day in constrast to muntzers eschatological anti prince pro peasant reading of the bible.

Myk
Aug 23 2012 08:19
Django wrote:

OK, so is the court report here wrong then?:

http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1456866_manchester-riots-looter-jailed-for-one-lick-of-a-stolen-coffee-ice-cream

It also says that the handling stolen goods charge was a seperate to the Patesserie Valerie one, so it doesn't change the reality of what he was convicted for, neither does his drug or weapon possession for previous charges (and similarly a member of Pussy Riot was part of a group which torched a police car, if we're discussing previous antics - the point being that there are definitely Russians online (and Brits, for that matter) arguing that this wasn't an act of free speech, it was a publicity stunt designed to cause maximum offence to Orthodox, they're violent extremists, blah blah).

Oh no, I agree it doesn't change the reality of what he was convicted for and like I said, it was extreme on the grounds of the conviction. I totally agree that harsh sentences were handed out on purpose to appease the knee-jerk anger of the public in the fashion of a good ol' witch hunt.
My problem with that one case is that he attacked actual people as opposed to just property, and in knowing that, I don't feel him getting 18 months is disproportionate as he can be considered an actual danger to the public.
I generally agree with the article though.

Devrim
Aug 23 2012 11:13
Django wrote:
It also says that the handling stolen goods charge was a seperate to the Patesserie Valerie one, so it doesn't change the reality of what he was convicted for, neither does his drug or weapon possession for previous charges (and similarly a member of Pussy Riot was part of a group which torched a police car, if we're discussing previous antics - the point being that there are definitely Russians online (and Brits, for that matter) arguing that this wasn't an act of free speech, it was a publicity stunt designed to cause maximum offence to Orthodox, they're violent extremists, blah blah).

Don't you think it was a publicity stunt? I can't really conceive of it being anything else. Considering that they have gone from being an obscure Russia pop group to being internationally famous, it is perhaps the greatest rock 'n' roll publicity stunt of all time.

Devrim

rooieravotr
Aug 23 2012 13:39
Quote:
"Considering that they have gone from being an obscure Russia pop group to being internationally famous, it is perhaps the greatest rock 'n' roll publicity stunt of all time."

Yes, and here they sit, in a prison camp for two years... If that is what a PR firm advised me to get my career going, I would fire them smile
No, I think Pussy Riot deserves to be taken a bit more seriously than dismissing it all as a stunt. The explanation of the action that knotwho refers to above makes that quite clear. They should be defended.

Android
Aug 23 2012 14:15

I agree with Dev. It was a publicity stunt gone wrong.

rooieravotr wrote:
Yes, and here they sit, in a prison camp for two years... If that is what a PR firm advised me to get my career going, I would fire them

Nice caricature. No one mentioned PR firm except you.

Quote:
I think Pussy Riot deserves to be taken a bit more seriously than dismissing it all as a stunt. The explanation of the action that knotwho refers to above makes that quite clear. They should be defended.

Saying it was a stunt, is not dismissing them. Just seems to be a statement of fact to me. They didn't end up in an orthodox church by accident.

And, in all honesty, the time they spend locked up will probably help their careers when they get out. Obviously we should sympathise with their plight, that goes without saying.

uhu
Aug 24 2012 14:42
Devrim
Aug 25 2012 12:33
rooieravotr wrote:
No, I think Pussy Riot deserves to be taken a bit more seriously than dismissing it all as a stunt. The explanation of the action that knotwho refers to above makes that quite clear. They should be defended.

What Do you mean by "[T)hey should be defended"? In real practical terms how do you advocate defending them.

I think it is quite clear that it was a publicity stunt, and one that was successful beyond their wildest dreams.

Devrim