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Pussy Riot Sentenced in Moscow: San Diegans Speak Out

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, -- Pussy Riot -- were sentenced in Russia today to two years in prison following their arrest in March after the punk trio sang "Mother of God, put Putin out," inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The charge was hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred. According to the New York Times, they initially faced seven years behind bars. Madonna has called for their release; today, there were protests in Spain, Paris, Washington, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. Local fans and musicians weigh in on the verdict:

Diana Death, The Very: "Being a punk rocker shouldn't be a crime, but in many places in the world it is. I can't blame those Russian girls for doing what they did, because if I were them I'd want to call Putin out as a putin (accent over the 'i'), too".

Jonathan Savage, Red Not Chili Peppers: "Moving backwards."

Jennifer Ball, former music editor, SD Reader: "The name "Pussy Riot" contributed to this mockery of a trial because pussies belong to the state in Russia, and there is a bit of porn in thinking about beautiful women being locked up against their wills."

Mario Escovedo, Requiemme Management, The Dragons: "When it's a criminal act to express yourself musically, that's a travesty. Just goes to show you in this age of modern technology and social media it's a crime that Russia can get away with that. They've already been in jail for five months. And god bless the band for the name alone, but that's exactly what punk rock should be, sticking your neck out with thought provoking ideas and taking chances."

Lando Martinez, Hocus: "I think the sentence is a little extreme. At most, the already six months served should be enough. Keep in mind, Russia is not America. They do not have protection by law for public displays against the government or religion. Yes it is the 21st century, but religion is still held in high regard. If I were to have done it, I would have done it outside the church that way it would not have been such an issue against the government or the church."

Michael Sosebee, indie film documentarian: "Sad stuff. Preventable by knowing the venue and culture. PR are a Russian band protesting cultural repression against women in their own country by Putin, a dictator."

Jeff Ousley, the Ballad Mongers: "PR put it all on the line to speak their minds in a society where they new they risked their freedom. It saddens me that more American artists don't have the guts to do it in this country where we have freedom of speech for fear of a financial backlash. Remember the Dixie Chicks when they spoke out against George W. Bush and the Iraq war? I have the utmost respect for artists like them. I believe that music is, and always has been, a powerful tool for raising awareness on political and social issues. What ever happen to the good old protest song, like back in the sixties? I think I'll re-release my old 80's song "Ronnie and the Ray Guns" and call it "Romney and The Ray Guns." Same old crap, different decade."

Jen Temple, fan: "They were performing in protest against their own government. They sang all of 40 seconds in a church. And now they are being persecuted for showing dissent, pure and simple. It's the kind of action you'd expect under a dictatorship, not in a country that is purportedly a democracy. There is no room here for cultural relativism. This is a violation of human rights, pure and simple."

Donley Walker, fan: "While I don't approve or condone of PR's lifestyle and moral or religious ethics, I do believe in our constitution and the first amendment. Hell, I even think the sick jackasses of the Westboro Baptist Church have the right to hold their nauseating protests. But, other countries like Russia don't see it that way. That's a shame. And that's what makes the USA great. I look at this situation with PR and say it's a wake up call to this nation. I'm reminded of a controversial situation we had here not too long ago with a fast food chicken business owner who is being denied his legal right to building permits because he simply stated his religious beliefs when asked. We are on a slippery slope when a person gets unlawfully persecuted because of race, creed or color. Unfortunately, at this point in time, marriage is not a protected status under our constitution. I believe in our constitution and I believe in free speech. I wish PR all the best, even if I don't agree with them on several issues."

Tim Pyles, host of SoundDiego Live: "Jailed for hooliganism? Hooliganism to me is what happened at the Lily Pond in Balboa Park. I thought Russia had come so far, but I guess not. The viral world we live in now brings Pussy Riot supporters from all over the world and Free Pussy Riot will be the call to arms. I do hope they get some of the money from all the tee shirts that will be made and sold. So please Mr. Vladimir Putin let them go and worry about real issues in your country. Long live the Russian Riot Grrls! I am Pussy Riot, you are Pussy Riot, we are all Pussy Riot!"

John Frazier, aka Harmonica John: "I watched the video. It sure looked like they barged into a church and were performing lewd acts on the altar. That would not be cool here, either, and they would have been charged with something like malicious mischief or trespassing, most likely. Also, they were not very entertaining from what I could see."

Eric Rife, photographer, rockumentarian: "The sentencing of Pussy Riot is not just a profound defeat for free speech everywhere, but also a sad reminder that even technologically-advanced societies are under constant threat from the anti-democratic tendencies of organized religion. People can hang it all on Putin (and he surely bears much responsibility for the situation, although I doubt he cares at all about Pussy Riot) but the fact of the matter is the Russian Orthodox church has as much social sway there as the religious right has here in the US. The Russian people are hardly united in rallying around Pussy Riot as vanguards of free expression. Rather, many Russians, presumably all orthodox Christians, think a two year prison sentence is too lenient. While many a musician or band can strike a pose or embrace an unpopular cause, very few can be regarded as posing a genuine threat to the social order. Had the arrest never happened, Pussy Riot would likely be, at best, just another punk band. But the Russian government's actions have guaranteed that Pussy Riot will be immortalized and championed around the globe, regardless of the message of their songs. Free Pussy Riot!"

Emily Richards, CEO, ArtisTech Music, San Diego: "I find it shocking based on what I know. Expressing political dissent through music may be offensive, but I don't see how this is criminal behavior. Freedom of expression is imperative in preventing oppression, and even when we don't agree with the opinions of others, I believe we should honor someone else's right to speak their truth. I hope we don't see this type of unfair punishment migrate from Russia to the States."

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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, -- Pussy Riot -- were sentenced in Russia today to two years in prison following their arrest in March after the punk trio sang "Mother of God, put Putin out," inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The charge was hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred. According to the New York Times, they initially faced seven years behind bars. Madonna has called for their release; today, there were protests in Spain, Paris, Washington, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. Local fans and musicians weigh in on the verdict:

Diana Death, The Very: "Being a punk rocker shouldn't be a crime, but in many places in the world it is. I can't blame those Russian girls for doing what they did, because if I were them I'd want to call Putin out as a putin (accent over the 'i'), too".

Jonathan Savage, Red Not Chili Peppers: "Moving backwards."

Jennifer Ball, former music editor, SD Reader: "The name "Pussy Riot" contributed to this mockery of a trial because pussies belong to the state in Russia, and there is a bit of porn in thinking about beautiful women being locked up against their wills."

Mario Escovedo, Requiemme Management, The Dragons: "When it's a criminal act to express yourself musically, that's a travesty. Just goes to show you in this age of modern technology and social media it's a crime that Russia can get away with that. They've already been in jail for five months. And god bless the band for the name alone, but that's exactly what punk rock should be, sticking your neck out with thought provoking ideas and taking chances."

Lando Martinez, Hocus: "I think the sentence is a little extreme. At most, the already six months served should be enough. Keep in mind, Russia is not America. They do not have protection by law for public displays against the government or religion. Yes it is the 21st century, but religion is still held in high regard. If I were to have done it, I would have done it outside the church that way it would not have been such an issue against the government or the church."

Michael Sosebee, indie film documentarian: "Sad stuff. Preventable by knowing the venue and culture. PR are a Russian band protesting cultural repression against women in their own country by Putin, a dictator."

Jeff Ousley, the Ballad Mongers: "PR put it all on the line to speak their minds in a society where they new they risked their freedom. It saddens me that more American artists don't have the guts to do it in this country where we have freedom of speech for fear of a financial backlash. Remember the Dixie Chicks when they spoke out against George W. Bush and the Iraq war? I have the utmost respect for artists like them. I believe that music is, and always has been, a powerful tool for raising awareness on political and social issues. What ever happen to the good old protest song, like back in the sixties? I think I'll re-release my old 80's song "Ronnie and the Ray Guns" and call it "Romney and The Ray Guns." Same old crap, different decade."

Jen Temple, fan: "They were performing in protest against their own government. They sang all of 40 seconds in a church. And now they are being persecuted for showing dissent, pure and simple. It's the kind of action you'd expect under a dictatorship, not in a country that is purportedly a democracy. There is no room here for cultural relativism. This is a violation of human rights, pure and simple."

Donley Walker, fan: "While I don't approve or condone of PR's lifestyle and moral or religious ethics, I do believe in our constitution and the first amendment. Hell, I even think the sick jackasses of the Westboro Baptist Church have the right to hold their nauseating protests. But, other countries like Russia don't see it that way. That's a shame. And that's what makes the USA great. I look at this situation with PR and say it's a wake up call to this nation. I'm reminded of a controversial situation we had here not too long ago with a fast food chicken business owner who is being denied his legal right to building permits because he simply stated his religious beliefs when asked. We are on a slippery slope when a person gets unlawfully persecuted because of race, creed or color. Unfortunately, at this point in time, marriage is not a protected status under our constitution. I believe in our constitution and I believe in free speech. I wish PR all the best, even if I don't agree with them on several issues."

Tim Pyles, host of SoundDiego Live: "Jailed for hooliganism? Hooliganism to me is what happened at the Lily Pond in Balboa Park. I thought Russia had come so far, but I guess not. The viral world we live in now brings Pussy Riot supporters from all over the world and Free Pussy Riot will be the call to arms. I do hope they get some of the money from all the tee shirts that will be made and sold. So please Mr. Vladimir Putin let them go and worry about real issues in your country. Long live the Russian Riot Grrls! I am Pussy Riot, you are Pussy Riot, we are all Pussy Riot!"

John Frazier, aka Harmonica John: "I watched the video. It sure looked like they barged into a church and were performing lewd acts on the altar. That would not be cool here, either, and they would have been charged with something like malicious mischief or trespassing, most likely. Also, they were not very entertaining from what I could see."

Eric Rife, photographer, rockumentarian: "The sentencing of Pussy Riot is not just a profound defeat for free speech everywhere, but also a sad reminder that even technologically-advanced societies are under constant threat from the anti-democratic tendencies of organized religion. People can hang it all on Putin (and he surely bears much responsibility for the situation, although I doubt he cares at all about Pussy Riot) but the fact of the matter is the Russian Orthodox church has as much social sway there as the religious right has here in the US. The Russian people are hardly united in rallying around Pussy Riot as vanguards of free expression. Rather, many Russians, presumably all orthodox Christians, think a two year prison sentence is too lenient. While many a musician or band can strike a pose or embrace an unpopular cause, very few can be regarded as posing a genuine threat to the social order. Had the arrest never happened, Pussy Riot would likely be, at best, just another punk band. But the Russian government's actions have guaranteed that Pussy Riot will be immortalized and championed around the globe, regardless of the message of their songs. Free Pussy Riot!"

Emily Richards, CEO, ArtisTech Music, San Diego: "I find it shocking based on what I know. Expressing political dissent through music may be offensive, but I don't see how this is criminal behavior. Freedom of expression is imperative in preventing oppression, and even when we don't agree with the opinions of others, I believe we should honor someone else's right to speak their truth. I hope we don't see this type of unfair punishment migrate from Russia to the States."

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