Room Thirteen spoke with Chris #2 the bassist of politi-punk rockers Anti Flag to get ourselves informed and up to date on the Pussy Riot situation in Russia.

R13: For those reading who don't know could you get us up to date with Pussy Riot from Punk Prayer through prosecution to present.
Chris #2: Pussy Riot are a punk rock band of activists from Russia. They made a protest against the, as they see it, corrupt connection between the the church in Russia and the political system in Russia. They took a video camera and made a music video guerrilla style in an Orthodox Church in Russia. The video went viral, mostly in Russia, and subsequently caused them to become arrested. Half of the band was arrested the other half has stayed in hiding. The three women who were arrested were charged with hooliganism and found guilty and are now serving two years of, what I understand as a manual labour work programme, not a jail sentence.
R13: Is that akin to community service?
Chris #2: No no no, it's far more harsh. It's not community service it's difficult. Everybody said it is actually a worse punishment than prison.
R13:Did they suffer harsh treatment whilst they were detained as well?
Chris #2: Yeah. They are vegan and they weren't given vegan meals. When you're in a prison I'm sure that your dietary habits aren't taken into account, but it seems specifically for them they have certainly been targeted and persecuted for speaking against it.
Our involvement in the Pussy Riot has been around a week and a half after their arrest we found out about it online and because we own our own studio we said "why don't we cover this song they played in the church?" So we covered the track, put up a soundcloud link and just said "these women are on trial right now." It's been our experience that with prisoners of conscience that their values only end when someone is speaking to you and you can easily get distracted by facebook and twitter and whatever and move on to the next issue. As long as people are speaking about Pussy Riot their work is working. So by covering the song we thought it would be something that can exist in the Anti Flag world where we continually bring it up. Now that they have been convicted it's definitely a tool that we can use to educate people about what Pussy Riot is and what they are going through. Furthermore we did two German benefit shows for them where the money went to a fund set up by one of the attorneys for pussy riot. We have since done a benefit T-shirt run that came out the day they were convicted. We are starting to bring that overseas, it had been the US only.

R13: We have seen a big response from the punk rock community with plenty of song dedications from acts such as Refused and Enter Shikari, also perhaps surprisingly Madonna also. What can our readers do besides grab one of the Anti Flag Pussy Riot T shirts?
Chris #2: There is a number of things. Amnesty International is leading the charge on this issue. Amnesty International is an organisation who we have worked with a lot because there are results. Whether it's a prisoner campaign like Pussy Riot or it's a death row campaign you can definitely see wins, and tangible wins when you work with organisations like Amnesty International. Right now they are doing a petition campaign to either get Pussy Riot released on time served or just challenge the current administration to re-examine the case. The website is Right on the front page is information about Pussy Riot and ways to help them. Furthermore the most important thing you can do is to just talk to people about it. With prisoners of conscience their value is so far increased by an open dialogue where we can examine what's happening in Russia, why they were imprisoned. I believe that they are hoping they can wait it out and wait for people to move onto the next issue and they can further implement punishment on Pussy Riot.

R13: 44% of Russians believed the trial to be fair and impartial where as only 17% did not. What is your response to that?
Chris #2: I think it has a lot to do with the religious aspects of that country. In America we would face similar scenarios if a church was desecrated in such a way. Religion has such a hand in governmental policies. You are seeing it right now in American politics where abortion and gay rights are major issues in this November election for presidency and those are issues that we should be so far beyond. I think this has more of an impact than state run media influencing peoples opinions: It's people that are believing that they are speaking out against the church. When members of Pussy Riot have come out and said that they are members of the church and they are speaking out against the relationship between the church and government and that they should be separate because Putin came out and said all orthodox Christians should vote for Putin and if they don't they are voting against God. They went into a church and played a song about it.

R13: Pussy Riot's first gig was atop of scaffolding in a Moscow subway. Other unusual places where they have played include on top of a garage next to a prison, in Red square and famously in an Orthodox Church. Where is the most unorthodox place Anti Flag have played?
Chris #2: (Laughs) We have done a couple of Flatbed trucks in Washington DC during anti-war marches those are always nice and always very cold! We did a peoples mic set with an acoustic guitar at occupy Wall Street, that was really awesome.
R13: Was that before Rage Against The Machine played?
Chris #2: No. That was the Republican National Convention, when we tried to sneak Rage Against The Machine in to play on our equipment. The police caught wind of it and shut down the march, but then did an a cappella set with Rage Against The Machine with a couple of Bullhorns that we had. It was definitely a glimpse into police state America when that all shut down because the plan was to just hand our instruments to our friends and let them play a song. As soon as they arrived the police were there and they were like "these four guys can't go on that stage". We said "why can't they go on stage they are our friends?", "because they are Rage Against The Machine and the are going to incite a riot". So we said "you're going to incite a riot by not allowing them to play".
R13: When Rage Against The Machine did that a cappella set they said to the fans "do not start a riot, we want a peaceful protest. We know that there a lot of Police here who are in fact fans of Rage Against The Machine". So the police couldn't have been further from the truth really.
Chris #2: Obviously they just wanted to flex their muscles and show that they had the power to shut things down at any moment. We had proper permits and they shut us down. But I think we won. We made a larger statement by them doing the a cappella set. Anti Flag played right into it, it was a cool experience for us.

R13: Anti Flag have done a cover of Pussy Riot. What do you think of their music?
Chris #2: It's funny because my interaction with their music was so limited before their activism caught our attention. Since I've been into it, the song they have just released is incredible it's called Putin Lights the Fires. It was released on the day of their conviction and it is the best Pussy Riot Song to date.

R13: Can we expect them to sign to A-F Records?
Chris #2: (Laughs) I think that would be awesome. We have come out and said any show they want to play, they can play. If they want to release records on A-F records that's for sure. We have recently received a bit of our own Russian economic censorship. We tried to go back to Russia, we have been there four times, to play shows surrounding the Pussy Riot case. No promoters would have us as they are afraid of getting audited or being interfered with by the government. Not necessarily Anti Flag getting interfered with, but the promoters that live there.
R13: Well there is some scary footage of protesters outside the court case getting abuse.
Chris #2: Yes. It is definitely a volatile situation and I don't see it calming any time soon. I think it is actually gaining ground swell and I think that is important.

Check out for the free Pussy Riot benefit shirt and soundcloud to hear Anti Flags cover of Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer.
Be sure to visit, and for all the latest on Pussy Riot.