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Pussy Riot Rushes the World Cup

Feminist activists and punk band make a statement about police impunity by running onto the field at World Cup final.

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Pussy Riot, a group of activists and a punk feminist band, performed a protest in the World Cup final in Moscow to protest police brutality and impunity by the state. They called the demonstration, “policeman enters the game,” and four members of the group rushed the field during the second half (around the 52 minute mark) dressed in police uniforms.

All members were chased by security, three being dragged down and pushed to the ground with help from Croatian player Dejan Lovren, while another was able to circle around and high-five a French player, Kylian Mbappé.

In the Twitter statement where the activists lay claim to their protest, they make several demands to the state based on their demonstration:

  1. Let all political prisoners free

  2. Not imprison for “likes”.

  3. Stop illegal arrests on rallies.

  4. Allow political competition in the country.

  5. Not fabricate criminal accusations and not keep people in jails for no reason.

  6. Turn the earthly policeman into the heavenly policeman.

     

The group in their statement also makes a distinction between the “earthly” and “heavenly” policeman – where the “the heavenly policeman protects baby’s sleep, the earthly policeman persecutes political prisoners, imprisons people for ‘reposts’ and ‘likes.’”

Their demonstration of entering the world cup game dressed as police was to demonstrate how the current political state of Russia is “ruleless” and allows the police and the state to “break [the citizens] world apart” with no penalties.

In their performance, Pussy Riot also commemorates the anniversary of the death of Dmitri Prigov, a prolific artist, poet, and protester of the former Soviet Union who wrote over 36,000 poems before his death in 2007. His poems were banned until the 1990s, and circulated as samizdat. Below is an excerpt from his poem, “Policeman,” from which Pussy Riot drew inspiration:

When the policeman stands here at his post
He can see all the way to Vnukovo
The policeman looks to the West, to the East—
And the empty space beyond lies open
And the center where stands the policeman—
He can be seen from every side
Look from anywhere, and there is the policeman
Look from the East and there is the policeman
And from the South, there is the policeman
And from the sea, there is the policeman
And from the heavens, there is the policeman
And from the bowels of the earth …
But then, he’s not hiding.

Prigov demonstrates that the policeman is everywhere; and that he is a monument of uncomfortable surveillance to the citizen constantly living in fear of the state. This was echoed by Pussy Riot in their statement and in their video, when the collective said “[the] FIFA world cup demonstrated really well how good Russian policemen behave. But what will happen once it ends?” Implying that Russian police have put on a good face during the world cup, but that they regularly commit human rights violations. In 2016, 54 people were sent to prison for hate speech, “most of them for sharing and posting things online.”

Pussy Riot’s performance demonstrates that while the World Cup can be a source of global unity, it it is also an important platform to highlight injustice – in the state and soccer association. In 2017, FIFA was caught committing huge human rights violations in the construction of stadiums for the tournament.  

Pussy Riot has a song also inspired by Prigov’s work, called “Police State” which calls out the ever-present state and police force in Russian daily life, and how they frequently invade the lives of citizens:

Big smile for the camera, it’s always on
It’s all in the protocol, they tapped my phone
Golden idols holding rivals, take my body, anybody
I’m your trophy, make my nose bleed, now you own me

The members who protested the state and FIFA have since been detained, and the group claims that the police won’t let their lawyers see the imprisoned activists. The activists are spending the night in prison, with the lawyer being told to “come tomorrow and file his complaints.” 

Their video about the demonstration on YouTube was also taken down by FIFA on the grounds of it violating copyright.

The activists are keeping their Twitter updated with more information as the members remain detained.

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Emily Harrington is a senior at University of Central Florida who is double majoring in English Literature and Humanities and Cultural Studies. Emily is also an avid activist and she works as an ally with multiple Florida-based groups. Her main mission with her writing is to negotiate her place between street activism and the ivory tower to foster critical thinking and conversation.

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