Pussy Riot Panel for Riot Fest 2014 Announced

When feminist punk rock activist collective Pussy Riot were arrested for demonstrating inside a Moscow church, the news stunned the world and effectively put human faces on the victims of a crushing totalitarian regime. When the three members were sentenced to serve jail time for "hooliganism" (one was released on appeal) it sent shockwaves across the globe, attracting severe criticism and the advocacy of groups like Amnesty International. In late October of 2012, Masha Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova were sent to separate (reportedly brutal) prisons to serve their two year sentences.

For the 10th Anniversary of Riot Fest, founder Michael Petryshyn is realizing a long-held idea of staging a socio-political discussion within the confines of his music festival. As a person of Ukrainian descent, Petryshyn felt that engaging in a panel discussion with the brave, controversial women of Pussy Riot was the perfect event to launch the Riot Fest Speaks stage.

The inaugural event (Friday, September 12 at Humboldt Park inChicago, IL) will be moderated by Henry Rollins who will lead the panel consisting of Nadya Tolokonnikova (Pussy Riot), Masha Alekhina (Pussy Riot), Greg Graffin (Bad Religion, Vocalist/Professor or Geology at UCLA), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against,), Marcelle Karp (writer/activist), Michael A. Petryshyn (Riot Fest, Founder), through discussion of social/political movements: their connection to art/music/creative collectives and the cross-pollination that takes place when activists exchange ideas and join each other to generate changes in the traditional soliloquy of thought and action. While addressing urgent issues, the panel will be conducted in a casual manner with a relaxed demeanor and a catalyst for an entertaining and thought provoking experience.

Founded in 2011, Pussy Riot staged gained notoriety for conducting unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations, which they edited into music videos and posted on the Internet. Since then they have protested at the Olympics (and were re-arrested), published a book called "Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom" and inspired a documentary by the same name, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. They've traveled the world speaking about their experiences and elucidating their political philosophies and feminist beliefs.

Now, as reported in Vanyland, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina are creating their own independent news agency, dubbed MediaZona, that will focus on courts, police stations, law enforcement, and the very prison system/ The group will work with the band’s prison rights group Zona Prava, with Russian political journalist Sergey Smirnov serving as its editor-in-chief. "Since our release from prison six months ago we've felt that Russian media are no longer able to cover what is going on," says Tolokonnikova in a press release. "Because of the heavy censorship by authorities there is no space for anything in the media that criticizes Putin's policies and tracks human rights abuses by Russian courts and law enforcement. Courts, prisons, arrests, convictions, riots in facilities, political criminal cases, crimes by law enforcement officials – our new media outlet will try to cover it all."