The noon-hour protest last Friday against the imprisonment of Russian dissident punks Pussy Riot had all the requisite fight-the-power elements: dread-heads wielding signs, chants of “This is what democracy looks like!,” and plenty of talk about “mixing religion with the strong arm of government.” (The latter was courtesy of Justin Trottier of the Centre for Inquiry,a secular-activist organization.)
Yet there was another group strongly represented among the 200 or so people filling the plaza at in front of Toronto’s Russian consulate: moms, for whom the case hit especially close to home.
“Never in my life have I done anything like this,” said Lynn Flatley, the Toronto mother of two who organized the protest. For Flatley, a social-media manager, the Pussy Riot case was a personal tipping point. The all-female band was sentenced last week to two years in prison for performing, in a church, a song critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s government. The charge was “hooliganism.” Two of the band’s members are mothers of young children.
Flatley wasn’t the only mom-protester in attendance; there were more than the average number of baby-toting young women in the crowd, and many said it was their first protest.
“I’m very proud to be Canadian,” said first-time demonstrator and Bulgarian immigrant Radostina Borisova. “I can’t imagine how they feel at these moments, but I still have my hope for these three girls.”
Flatley’s stepdaughter, Allie, was handing out “Free Pussy Riot” buttons, and her teenaged son, Andrew, was in charge of crowd security.
“I think freedom of speech and secularism is very important in today’s society,” said the earnest 13-year-old. “Even in Canada, the church and state are coming together, and that can lead to some really bad things.” The lanky teen then went back to the serious business of “crowd control”— mainly strolling around and chatting with whoever crossed his path.