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Global Activists Plan Mass Rallies ahead of Pussy Riot Verdict
Security guards break up demonstration outside of Moscow cathedral
Supporters of Russian punk band Pussy Riot mobilized this week, and are now planning roughly two dozen simultaneous rallies in cities across the world, including Moscow, Barcelona, London, Paris, New York, Washington and Toronto. The rallies will begin one hour before a Russian court hands over a verdict to the band members, who were arrested five months ago for performing a protest song in a Moscow Cathedral.
Activists hope their pressure will either ease the punishment or free the band members entirely.
The rallies are part of a growing international movement in support of the three band members who have been accused by prosecutors of insulting Russian Orthodoxy and posing a danger to society. The band members could face a three year prison term for their performance. The defendants, however, argue that their Anti-Putin "punk prayer" titled, "Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Out", was not an act of religious hatred, but an act of political protest.
The Pussy Riot case has caused an international outcry, calling on Russia to protect free speech and end political persecutions. Protests have been held in several international cities over the past five months.
On Wednesday Russian security guards scuffled with demonstrators outside of the Moscow cathedral where the women had performed. The demonstrators, in support of the band, wore the group's trademark colored balaclavas, holding signs that read "Blessed are the merciful."
Police have reportedly detained at least two of Wednesday's protesters.
On Friday, the activists in more than two dozen cities will take to the streets at 2 p.m. Moscow time (1000 GMT), an hour before the judge is to issue the verdict. The protests are being coordinated by the band's defense lawyers.
Guards break up Pussy Riot protest in Moscow Wednesday: