Earlier this week, Ed Koch shared his opinion on the controversy surrounding Russian all-female punk band Pussy Riot. Here are a few of his thoughts on the matter, courtesy of the New York Observer:
This week, a Russian court sentenced three feminist punk performers who call themselves “Pussy Riot” to prison for two years. The three women were charged with “hooliganism.” The graveness of the charge was described by the New York Times of August 18th: “The case began in February when the women infiltrated the Cathedral of Christ the Savior wearing colorful balaclavas, and pranced around in front of the golden Holy Doors leading to the altar, dancing, chanting and lip-syncing for what would later become a music video of a profane song in which they beseeched the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Mr. Putin…”
The Western cultural elite is rallying to the defense of the disrupters in the cathedral. Some approve of the verbal attack on Putin. Others support the denunciation of the Russian Orthodox church leadership and the church disruption because of the church leadership support of Putin. All cited characterize the issue as one of free speech. I do not.
I would assume that many Pussy Riot supporters would take a different position, and rightly so, if here in the U.S. a black church were invaded and three men or women engaged in comparable conduct insulting holy places within the church and the pastor. I recall when I was Mayor in 1989 and the AIDS activist group Act Up, unjustifiably angry with John Cardinal O’Connor, invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral and interrupted the Mass, throwing the Communion wafers – which for Catholics are the actual Body of Christ – to the floor. Some were arrested. So far as I can recall, no one was punished. I think the decision of the Russian court to punish a hate crime was just and to be applauded, rather than condemned and ridiculed. One can argue concerning the degree of punishment, whether fines rather than jail time should have been imposed, but that is a function of the Russian penalty procedures.
Sure, Ed, one could argue the point everybody is making: Two years in a Russian prison seems a bit harsh for a protest in which nothing was damaged and nobody was hurt, unless you count their feelings.
Does anybody really think this two-year jail sentence has anything to do with religion? They weren’t even arrested at the time they did it. That didn’t happen until weeks later. (On the day before Putin’s “election,” coincidentally enough.) You can agree that the worshippers in that church had every right to be offended, and that some sort of punishment was warranted, without thinking this sentence is proportionate to the crime.
If two years is okay, Ed, why not five years? Why not 10? How harsh would the punishment have to be before it stopped being “a function of the Russian penalty procedures”?
It’s just an excuse to stifle dissent. These women are political prisoners. Putin is sending a message:
Не связывайся со мной.
And Ed Koch approves.