Worldwide protest for Pussy Riot
Supporters of the punk rock band Pussy Riot bared their breasts, covered their faces with ski masks and cross-dressed Friday (local time) in a series of raucous protests that stretched from New York to Copenhagen to denounce the musicians' conviction in a Russian court.
In a Paris square, supporters followed the trial by phone and shouted in unison with protesters in Moscow. In Kiev, Ukraine, four women, one who was topless, used a chainsaw to cut down a cross. And in cities across Europe and the US, young people donned the neon-coloured balaclavas that have become symbols of the band.
The three women, who have been in jail for more than five months because of a guerilla performance denouncing President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral, were convicted on charges of hooliganism driven by religious hatred and each sentenced to two years in prison.
The trial has been seen as a symbol of Russia's intolerance of dissent, especially under the reign of Putin, and a series of colourful and raucous protests have attracted worldwide attention to the feminist rockers' fate. Celebrities including Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bjork have called for the band members to be freed.
Governments including the United States, Britain, France and Germany joined the chorus Friday, denouncing the sentences as disproportionate.
But Friday's demonstrations - none of which attracted more than a few hundred people - seemed unlikely to gain the momentum needed to exert any real pressure on Russia's government.
Still, one protester in Berlin who used to be an East German dissident underscored the importance of continuing even seemingly futile calls for changes.
"I remember the times when we were in opposition ... the signs from other countries were very, very important," said Marianne Birthler, who also served as head of a post-reunification commission that investigated the East German intelligence service. "So we knew what we are doing is recognized and there are people who are willing to support us and who follow what happens to us. That's the reason we are here now."
Protesters from New York to London to Copenhagen donned colourful balaclavas like those the women were wearing when they performed in the cathedral and some men at the gathering in the British capital even wore dresses in solidarity.
"These three girls are just the tip of the iceberg," said Adam Adamson, a 26-year-old who set up the Facebook page for the London protest. "Many have been arrested because they were opposing Putin."
In New York, about 40 protesters gathered, holding up banners that read: "We are all hooligans."
In Barcelona, Spain, more than 50 colourfully garbed demonstrators sang and danced to Pussy Riot songs as they protested outside the large Sagrada Familia church.
"Russia may be a mixture of Europe and Asia which means it has a unique approach to religion, but we know this is not really a religious issue," said Andrei Viachenko, a 28-year-old Russian doctoral student studying in Spain.
A protest in Washington was more subdued, with 11 people marching in a loose circle in front of the Russian Embassy.
In Serbia, while anti-Putin activists plan protests in Belgrade, a Serbian far-right group has taken Putin's side. The group Nasi has launched an online game targeting the Pussy Riot members, and says on its website that the women should be sent to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.