On February 5 2014, Madonna introduced Pussy Riot at the Amnesty International’s human rights concert.
It was the first Amnesty International concert for the cause in 16 years, and took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
During her introduction, Madonna thanked Pussy Riot “for making pussy a ‘sayable’ word in my household. Now, my 8-year-olds say it all the time.”
More seriously, Madonna spoke of the death threats she received during the Russian portion of her MDNA World Tour, which took place at the same time as Pussy Riot’s trial.
“Eighty-seven of my fans were arrested for gay behavior — whatever that is,” she said.
The Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, spoke in Russian with aggression and passion. A translator related the women’s speech.
“Freedom is not a given,” she translated. “It is something we have to fight for every day. It is our duty to speak for those who are still behind bars.”
On August 20 2012, a law suit was filed by nine Russians who were offended that Madonna had asked fans to raise their hands to show their support for the Russian LGBT community during a concert stop in St. Petersburg, Russia—where it is illegal to promote homosexuality to minors.
In her speech during the concert, Madonna called for members of Russia’s LGBT community to be “treated with dignity, with respect, with compassion, with love,” and took the country to task for crackdowns on those who expressed opposition against the country’s oppressive laws.
“I feel people are becoming more and more afraid of people who are different; people are becoming more intolerant,” she said. “It’s a very scary time, but we can make a difference. We can change this. We have the power. And we don’t have to do it with violence; we just have to do it with love.”
Although the suit did make it to trial in November 2012, it was promptly dismissed by the presiding judge after briefly questioning the plaintiffs about the arbitrary nature of the case given the volume of contemporary entertainment which contains “positive references to homosexuality.” The suit had sought damages of approximately $10.5 million from Madonna, the organizer of her concert, and the hall where it was held.
On August 10 2012, a senior ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin used a Twitter post to attack Madonna after she called for the release of three women who faced prison over an irreverent performance in Moscow’s main cathedral.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a nationalist politician and former envoy to NATO, posted the tweet after Madonna told a Moscow concert audience the jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot were “courageous” and deserved to be free.
“Every ex-wh*re tends to lecture everybody with age. Especially during world tours and concerts,” Rogozin, who lead Russia’s drive to upgrade the army and defense industry, wrote in a tweet in English.
On August 9 2012, Madonna spoke out for gay rights at an MDNA concert in St Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s home town, where a law was adopted to curb homosexual “propaganda.”
Performing in black lingerie with the words “No Fear” scrawled on her bare back, Madonna urged the audience – most wearing pink wrist bands distributed at the door – to “show your love and appreciation to the gay community”.
“We want to fight for the right to be free,” she said.