Two Members of Pussy Riot Popped Up at Bluestockings This Week

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When two members of Pussy Riot took off their balaclavas at the Lower East Side's Bluestockings Monday evening, it probably made that night one of the most internationally significant, if clandestine, moments in the feminist bookstore's 14-year history. The event, kept under a strict 48-hour embargo, was covered by the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman, who attended the small gathering with "50-odd" activists who learned about the appearance by word of mouth.

"We are keeping the spirit alive. Continue the riot," the women, going by the pseudonyms Fara and Shaiba, said. "Right now we are here on a special mission to try to establish connections with like-minded people and organizations throughout the globe."

Read more: Pussy Riot's Cause Is Celebrated at the Ace Hotel

The "punk prayer" and subsequent trial of feminist punk performance artists Pussy Riot brought global attention to the Kremlin's extreme repression of anti-Putin dissent. Two members of Pussy Riot are currently serving two-year prison sentences on "hooliganism" charges; one, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is a young mother. The other, Maria Alekhina, ended an 11-day hunger strike last week, and no one--aside from Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr--has been able to contact them of late, notes Rob Lieber, an organizer with FreePussyRiot.org.

"They've essentially been cut off," he tells the Voice. Pussy Riot supporters are also concerned about Tolokonnikova's health and the women's treatment inside the prison--Tolokonnikova suffers from migraine headaches, while Alekhina says that she's received death threats from other prisoners who have been manipulated by prison guards.

This trip marks the first time that members of Pussy Riot have come to the United States, according to the Guardian. They've been meeting with contingents of the Occupy movement, Lieber says, along with counselors from the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, and the curator of the Judy Chicago exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. On Tuesday, Patti Smith introduced the debut screening of the Pussy Riot documentary at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema, and today, Lieber notes, is Alekhina's birthday.

The day of the Bluestockings visit, two Republican congressmen on a visit to Moscow actually came out in support of the Russian judicial system's treatment of Pussy Riot. "If anyone came into my church ... and did that, it would be difficult for me to stand up and say they had a human right to do that," Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said at a press conference.

Regardless, Fara and Shaiba will continue to meet with American activists and spread awareness of the backlash faced by feminist and LGBTQ activists in Putin's Russia. Just last month, a 23-year-old man was brutally tortured to death for being gay. Many believe the hate crime was subtly encouraged by the Russian government's brand of homophobia: Currently, the parliament is debating a national law to ban "gay propaganda among minors."

Send your story tips to sbrownstone@villagevoice.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

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