February 6, 2014 11:38

Pussy Riot members call for Putin's ousting at Amnesty International concert in New York

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina introduced on stage in New York by Madonna

Pussy Riot members call for Putin's ousting at Amnesty International concert in New York

Photo: Getty

Pussy Riot appeared on stage at an Amnesty International benefit concert in New York last night (February 5), calling for a Russia without President Vladimir Putin.

In addition to performances from acts including Lauryn Hill, Blondie, Imagine Dragons, Bob Geldof and The Flaming Lips, the five-hour event highlighted speeches from sufferers of human rights violations, including the top-billed Nadezhda "Nadya" Tolokonnikova and Maria "Masha" Alyokhina, the two members of punk performance art collective Pussy Riot who are currently on a press and activism tour in America.

The group were brought to the stage at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn at the Bringing Human Rights Home event by Madonna. It was Amnesty's first benefit concert since 1998 and their 29th overall.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina's joint speech, which followed speeches by Amnesty activists, celebrities like Susan Sarandon and former prisoners both international and domestic (like the wrongly convicted former Texas death row inmate Kerry Max Cook), was the centerpiece of the evening.

Introduced by Madonna and wearing matching cross-emblazoned shirts, the two women spoke forcefully through their translator against authoritarian political imprisonment, reading quotes from the closing statements of several recently accused Russians currently on trial for protesting against rigged elections in Moscow.

"Now that we're here, it is our duty to give a voice to those who are still behind bars in the dark," said Tolokonnikova. "We will not forgive and we will not forget what the regime is doing to our fellow citizens." The pair called for "a Russia without Putin" and ending the speech with a benediction of "Russia will be free," shouted in unison three times.

The show, which aimed to drum up support, membership and activism with Amnesty's efforts against imprisonment, torture, the death penalty, and other global human rights issues, also featured performances by Cold War Kids, Cake, Tegan and Sara, Colbie Caillat, and The Fray, most of whom played three-song sets throughout the evening.

The Flaming Lips closed the show and were joined by Yoko Ono for her song 'It's Alright.' As is tradition for Amnesty concerts, since its inaugural, Bill Graham-promoted concert A Conspiracy of Hope in 1986, the gig concluded with an arena-wide rendition of Bob Dylan's 'I Shall Be Released,' for which Geldof, Ono, and Amnesty staff joined The Flaming Lips onstage.

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