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CBGB, Amnesty International Deliver Letter of Support for Pussy Riot

Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, family of Joey Ramone among the signees

Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot during a court hearing in Moscow
Andrey Smirnov/AFP/GettyImages
August 29, 2012 12:05 PM ET

Renowned names have been voicing their support for the three members of Pussy Riot currently jailed in Russia. The latest include Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, No Reservations host Anthony Bourdain, Hole's Patty Schemel, Cheap Trick's Bun E. Carlos and the family of the Ramones' Joey Ramone, who each signed a joint Amnesty International USA/CBGB petition letter.

Earlier this week, the current owners of the CBGB name, Tim Hayes and Louise Parnassa Staley, hand-delivered the letter to the prosecutor's office in Moscow. "Amnesty International had 100,000 signatures and took them to the Russian Embassy in Washington, and were physically removed from the building," Hayes tells Rolling Stone. "They had a scheduled meeting and presented them with the names, and the Russian officials immediately asked them to leave. They said they were leaving the petitions behind and the Russian officials refused to accept them and physically escorted them from the building and threw the petitions on the curb.

"After that happened, Louise and I decided to take the single letter signed by the celebrities and hand-deliver it to the prosecutor's office in Moscow," he continued. "While we were in Moscow, we went to a Pussy Riot rally, and we met with family members and Nadia Tolokonnikova's husband. Nadia really runs Pussy Riot, and she's been in prison for five months. We met with their legal team and other supporters, and spent the weekend working with them and helping to organize more ways to globally help keep pressure on the [Vladimir] Putin administration. [Pussy Riot] think that the Putin election was unfair, and that he shouldn't be in office – that he cheated, that the election was fraudulent. And that he suppresses freedom of expression, freedom of speech."

While in Russia, Hayes was struck by the country's edgy vibe. "The mood in Moscow is very tense. What I haven't seen represented in the western press is that Pussy Riot is much bigger than a punk band. It really represents a group of people – much like Occupy Wall Street was a movement. Pussy Riot has become sort of a name for a movement of people who are trying to get Putin out of office. And they're organized all across Russia. These girls in the band are really the face of that movement, but it's a much bigger movement. The police are closely monitoring it and how aggressively they're trying to shut down any public organizations or demonstrations of support for Pussy Riot."

Hayes also offered an update on Tolokonnikova and the other two jailed Pussy Riot members, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina. "The three girls are still in the Moscow jail, which is where they had to await their trial. Much like in the U.S., when you're awaiting trial, unless there's some extreme circumstance, it's common practice for you to be let out on bond or bail. The three girls were denied all of those normal rights, and were left in jail. They've been denied any communication with anyone other than their attorneys. So they cannot talk to family members. Nadia has a four-year-old child, and they can't talk to family members, they can't have visitors."

According to Hayes, Pussy Riot would like to clear up a misconception. "They certainly don't have remorse, but what they do have is a desire to better communicate to the world that their action in the church had nothing to do with religion, it had nothing to do with the church. They have a long history of doing public demonstrations and doing public actions of defiance against the government. It seems like they were arrested not because it was in a church, but because that was an opportunity for the police to grab them, because so much of their actions have been covert."

The CBGB owners also addressed their prospects for reopening the club at a different New York location. "We're looking for property," said Hayes. "We thought we had a place on Orchard Street. It was a really nice property that we made an offer on about a month ago, and we got beat out. So we're looking for a space. Real estate in Manhattan is tough."

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