Photo courtesy of Whitney Fierce

Earlier this week we looked back upon the nearly six month ordeal that Moscow punk band Pussy Riot has been subjected to following a charge of "hooliganism" after they questioned their country's close relationship between the church and state. They did this after a short performance inside of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, and their verdict is expected on August 17th. Some believe they'll get three years behind bars.

Support for the band has come from all over, and from everyone from Bjork to Madonna to... Danny Devito. Tonight, Whitney Fierce (of Hercules & Love Affair) is hosting a "Party For Pussy... Riot" party, where proceeds will go to the Pussy Riot legal fund. Fierce happened to be performing in Russia last Saturday night, and nearly got arrested herself—below she tells us her own story:

"Last Saturday, Hercules and Love Affair were playing a show in Irkutsk, Russia, which is actually in Eastern Siberia. I was quite interested and excited to go as I had been keeping close tabs on the Pussy Riot situation and was interested to talk to people about what they thought. Unfortunately after 3 days of flying, I didn't get the chance I was hoping to, as we got in hours before the show and we were all pooped. But I had already made one decision on my own, to perform as I always do. I would give the fans the full show, and be exactly myself, in support of Pussy Riot.

While I'm all too aware that I don't have the legal team that Madonna does, and that the stage and audience were flanked with dozens of not-so-subtly stern police with vicious dogs with caged muzzles, I knew that if nothing else, I could perform my art in my own voice and style, and that alone upholds the rights that Pussy Riot stands for.

Unfortunately that was not the case. We began a song that generally cues the removal of my top layer of clothing. Mind you, this top layer of clothing is sheer, and when removed, I am still wearing a bra, high-waisted underwear, and tights. For fuck's sake, I'm dressed like a superhero, and have a lot more clothing on than the ads and titty magazines I saw in windows driving down local streets. As it happened, the crowd went wild, and the police's posture changed. It was duly noted, but I didn't find it threatening at first.


At the halfway point, you can see Fierce taking her shirt off (this is from a different performance)

My perceptions were wrong. Within moments, someone came on stage and told one of the other singers that I needed to put my clothes back on. He relayed that to me... [but] not that the police didn't seem to be happy. I couldn't decide what to do. I didn't want to collapse under their pressure, in performance or my morals, but it seemed I had no choice. I could adhere to their policies, or be carted off like Pussy Riot. The decision upset me in a way I didn't expect, the rest of my performance was subdued, as I was disappointed that I had folded.

After the show, the artist liaison came up to me to 'explain' what had happened. There was a lot said, but when it came down to it, it seems the reasoning was that the performance was sponsored by the State Bank of Russia, and that there were children in the audience. Apparently the police were not pleased, and this was repeated to me. After this we were escorted to an interview with MTV where the presenter complimented my performance... he asked me why I took my shirt off, and while every fiber in me wanted to scream, "because I am proud of who I am, and how I choose to perform my art, FREE PUSSY RIOT!" I sheepishly said, 'because I was hot,' noting the eyes narrowing on a number of faces behind the camera. Where's Madonna's legal team when I need them?

So out of both my support of feminism, personal expression, freedom of performance, and retaliation against repression of these things, I now, from America, will fight even harder than before. The trial is set to be decided by the 17th, and the world needs to make sure Russian Officials hear our voices, as they are not listening to the defense's witnesses, are depriving three young women of a decent amount of food and sleep, the right to see their family for almost six months now (that includes one's young child), and the threat of years in a labor camp, where they will risk physical and sexual abuse. This is absolutely unjust, as this is punishment for a ONE MINUTE 'punk prayer'... They argue that this upset the Orthodox people at the church at which they were performing, that if my sources are correct, was rented for $10,000."

Fierce adds that the people she met in Irkutsk, "were the outright sweetest I've ever encountered... though a cloud of fear seemed to hang heavy above them all."