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Kim Gordon, James Murphy and Jake Gyllenhaal Party for Pussy Riot

A-List celebs celebrate the Russian activists at a chic Manhattan hot spot

Kim Gordon, Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot attend Pussy Riot and The Voice Project party.
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
February 7, 2014 3:30 PM ET

After almost two years in prison, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina's post-release whirlwind dropped them down in New York City this week. The Russian activists, who were imprisoned for performing with Pussy Riot in a church in Moscow in 2012, have been here in the United States on a fundraising campaign that has included a Madonna-feted Amnesty International concert in Brooklyn, a press conference and an appearance on The Colbert Report. Last night in Manhattan, the women capped it off at the West Village's tony Spotted Pig restaurant, with a fundraiser whose hosts included Kim Gordon, Questlove and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and which drew guests like art star Marina Abramovic, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, erstwhile LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and the poet Eileen Myles.

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The fundraiser was held by the Voice Project, a non-profit co-founded by Anna Gabriel (daughter of Peter) with the mission of using music to create social change. The organization managed the Pussy Riot Support Fund while Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were imprisoned, using donated monies to monitor and ensure the twosome's safety while imprisoned in Siberia. Addressing the crowd through a microphone in a corner booth at the Spotted Pig, Voice Project co-founder Hunter Heaney introduced the women. "Someday when they teach about activism, they're going to teach about these people right here," he said. "While they were still in the prison, separated by hundreds of miles in Siberia, both of them went on hunger strikes while they were still there, in the prisons, for prison reform, calling out the abuses. It's a bravery that's unmatched."

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Alykhova and Tolokonnikova stood on the cushions of a booth and spoke in Russian, translated to English by Tolokonnikova's husband Pyotr Verzilov. "We don't want to keep you for too long, because we feel it is not right to give too much attention to ourselves when there are people now who need the attention much more than we do," said Tolokonnikova. "We've been talking about political prisoners in Russia for the past several days, so I call on you to look at the prisoners there, especially the May 6th trial. Look into what's happening in Russia these days. Let's do what we can to make sure they're the ones standing on the couch next time!" The May 6th trial concerns 27 Russian activists detained for allegedly "rioting" while protesting the regime of President Putin.

After the speeches, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina spoke to Rolling Stone in an upstairs office at the Spotted Pig, drawing puffs on Parliaments while Verzilov translated. "This moment comes from the desire to make our voices heard," said Tolokonnikova. "It all started September 24th, 2011, when the former Russian President Medvedev said he would be bringing Putin back. It was the founding date of Pussy Riot, when we went out into the streets and hoped to see other people dissatisfied by what they heard on the news. But instead of that, we just saw all the good old Russian rock bands behaving and playing like nothing happened. This made us really want to scream and make our voices heard and use music for what it's supposed to do."

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The women plan to continue their work upon their return to Russia, with a focus on prison reform. "We will continue writing appeals and supporting the usual human rights trials, but obviously we cannot forget our creative sides, so we will make music videos and continue our other creative outlets, as well," said Alyokhina.

Yesterday, members of Pussy Riot released a letter in which they distanced themselves from Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, saying they were no longer members because their focus was no longer exclusively separatist feminism. However, the letter also praised them for their work. "Yes, we lost two friends, two ideological fellow member [sic]," it read, "but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders - fighters for the rights of the Russian prisoners."

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