Peaches Shoots Guerrilla Video in Support of Pussy Riot

Donations will go toward their legal bills, says fellow provocateur

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As the three young women of feminist punk band Pussy Riot fight for their freedom in a Russian court for "singing" out against President Vladimir Putin, Canadian electro-punk artist Peaches co-wrote a song called "Free Pussy Riot" and shot a video for it a week ago in Berlin.

"We're offering the song as a free download, but there is a donation link on the song and video sites if people want to help with their lawyer bills," Peaches told Rolling Stone by email.

Peaches, whose real name is Merrill Nisker, wrote the song with Simmone Jones. One sample lyric is, "Church and state separate/ Shoot a flare for the punk prayer."

Russia's Pussy Riot is an all-female collective, sometimes numbering as many as 10, who wear brightly coloured dresses, tights and balaclavas. On February 21st, some members of the collective performed a song at the altar of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church asking "Theotokos" (the Virgin Mary) to "chase Putin away," to protest his third presidency bid in March.

After less than a minute, guards escorted them outside. The short-lived protest was shot and posted on YouTube. It appears to show five participants.

On March 3rd, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, both mothers of young children, were arrested and charged with premeditated hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility. On March 16th, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, was also arrested and charged. They have been incarcerated ever since. The trial began July 30th and a verdict is expected August 17th.

"They do not hate religion, but how the state and church create dictatorship," Peaches tells Rolling Stone.

On a Facebook Event page for the "Free Pussy Riot" video shoot, Peaches and video coordinator John Renaud asked local supporters of the band to meet at the Glory Whole Café in Berlin, and to wear bright solid colours. "If you are not in Berlin or can't make it, please send a 30 second video of yourself showing support by dancing, jumping on your bed, breaking shit, laughing, holding a free pussy riot sign etc.," it added.

A photograph showing about 60 colored balaclavas arranged to spell out "Free Pussy Riot"was posted prior to the shoot, giving an glimpse into what the video-makers had planned. Peaches also posted, "Can someone bring a couple of babydolls to the shoot today? New born baby sized would be great!"

peaches pussy riot
Photo: Fiona Garden

The day before the shoot, overwhelmed by the response, she posted, "Dear Pussy Riot supporters. Our group is getting quite big. WOW! Please remember we have no permit and if we want this video to work we must at least start orderly and calm."

Filming took only one hour last Wednesday, beginning at the café at 5 p.m. (11 a.m. ET), then moving on to Mauer Park. The video was then edited by Robin Thomson and released today at 4 a.m. ET. There was no video director per se, but 70 video submitters from around the world and 400 participating activists, she says.

The premise of the video, says Peaches, is "to continue the Pussy Riot concept for freedom and show how it will never die." Peaches first heard that Pussy Riot was charged and incarcerated when it first happened in March. "I was obsessed with them already and the punk actions they made around Moscow," she says. "I was hoping to get in touch with them, but then they got arrested."

Peaches also posted a link to their petition to free the band.

"If Russia wishes to be a part of the modern globalized world it must adhere to the standards and principles of a free nation where its people have the right to have a free and open dialogue about all subjects," it states in part. " . . . By following through with the prosecution of these women, Russian political bullies are currently making a mockery of free speech, free thought, and Russia's own country's constitution."

Amnesty International, Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and other rights groups have called for the musicians' release. Sting, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pete Townsend, Yoko Ono and Madonna have also come out in support of the women, as well as many politicians and actors within Russia.

According to the BBC, even Putin told reporters in London, "There is nothing good in what they did [but] I don't think they should be judged too severely."

peaches pussy riot
Photo: Fiona Garden