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Pussy Riot Protests Police Abuse In Video Tribute To Eric Garner

  • Luke Johnson

The single-take video shows group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina clad in Russian riot-police uniforms and being buried alive.

The single-take video shows group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina clad in Russian riot-police uniforms and being buried alive.

The Russian punk art collective Pussy Riot is tackling police brutality in the United States with the group's first English-language video, which invokes an unarmed African-American man who died in July after a New York City police officer placed him in a chokehold.

The music video was released on February 18 and takes its title, I Can't Breathe, from the last words of Eric Garner, 43, whose choking death at the hands of the officer sparked nationwide protests in the United States.

"This song is for Eric and for all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror -- killed, choked, perished because of war and state-sponsored violence of all kinds -- for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change," the group said in a statement accompanying the video. "We stand in solidarity."

The single-take video shows group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina clad in Russian riot-police uniforms and being buried alive.

The lead vocalist is Sasha Klokova of the Russian band Jack Wood, while Matt Kulakov of the band Scofferlane joins in the chorus.

In the video, American punk icon Richard Hell reads Eric Garner's last words, which became a rallying cry at the protests that followed the December decision of a Staten Island grand jury not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who put Garner in the chokehold.

The video shows a pack of cigarettes on the ground bearing the words "Russkaya Vesna," or "Russian Spring." Pro-Kremlin activists coined that term in connection with Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory in March 2014 and the subsequent establishment of so-called "people's republics" by pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Pantaleo choked Garner while trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes.

The group's members said they filmed the video during the December demonstrations in New York and elsewhere across the United States protesting the decision not to indict the officer in Garner's death. An accompanying video shows footage from these protests set to the new song.

Pussy Riot gained international fame after performing what they called a "punk prayer" in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February 2012 to protest againstVladimir Putin, who had recently announced his intention to return to the presidency.

Members of the group were arrested weeks later and charged with "hooliganism." Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina, and a third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were convicted and sentenced in August 2012 in what rights groups and Western officials decried as politically motivated prosecutions.

Samutsevich was released on probation in October 2012, while Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were freed in December 2013 under an amnesty introduced ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Pussy Riot has turned its attention to police brutality in the United States before.

In May, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina traveled to New York City's jail complex at Rikers Island to visit Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street protester convicted in 2014 of assaulting a police officer and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

McMillan claims she reacted instinctively by elbowing the officer after he grabbed her breast.

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