Commentary Magazine


Wave of Anti-Putin Protests Hits the U.S.

I agree with Max’s post below. While Friday’s sentencing in Russia of three members of a punk rock protest outfit was a travesty of justice–the girls were each give two-year prison terms–it also exposed the Putin regime’s thuggish tactics to a broader audience, making it more difficult for apologists to gloss over the government’s oppression. As Seth noted, Pussy Riot’s treatment is being condemned by celebrities, who may be politically clueless but can still bring a lot of much-needed attention to the issue.

The regime’s response to protesters after the sentencing has only invited more global outrage. Human Rights Foundation chairman Garry Kasparov, a prominent chess champion and activist, was reportedly beaten severely by Russian police outside the courthouse where the sentencing took place today.

“If anyone had any doubts about the despotic nature of Russia’s regime, the arrest and violence used against someone simply standing outside a courthouse perfectly illustrates the dire situation in that country today,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, in an public statement.

The sentencing sparked protests at Russian embassies from NYC to London. In Washington, D.C., there were demonstrations in front of the embassy and the Russian ambassador’s residence.

At one protest in D.C., organized by the Center for American Freedom (which runs the Washington Free Beacon), demonstrators carried signs decrying Putin and calling for the prisoners to be released. “How’s the oppression going?” CAF’s chairman Michael Goldfarb yelled at people entering the residence, while a group of protesters — including someone in a gorilla suit and a woman in a Putin mask — waved signs nearby. According to Goldfarb, this was CAF’s first direct action demonstration. He said he wanted to send a message to Putin that “there’s still a few people who care.”

If today’s global protests are any indication, it’s far more than just a few. Whether that gets through to the “Reset” enthusiasts in the Obama administration — which issued a fairly mild statement saying it was “concerned” about the “disproportionate sentencing” — remains to be seen.