What Is the Message Behind Pussy Riot’s New Song ‘I Can’t Breathe’?

Russian all-girl rock band Pussy Riot just released the video for their first song in English. It was recorded in the U.S. in the midst of protests about the death of Eric Garner in New York City.

The video recalls the experience in the final moments of the life of Eric Garner. He was stopped by police on Staten Island, New York City, and then choked to death when police felt he was resisting arrest. His final words during the police encounter are read in full towards the end of the song.

Pussy Riot release first English song.

Pussy Riot have faced their own share of trouble in their native Russia. They’ve been arrested, censored, and attacked there. Some of their performances have criticized current Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Pussy Riot

Members of Pussy Riot. (Image: “Pussy Riot by Igor Mukhin” by Игорь Мухин at Russian Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

In this video tribute to Eric Garner, they lie in a grave wearing Russian riot police uniforms. It’s as if the group is connecting what they’ve dealt with in Russia, with the sort of things that happen in America.

Not to say that everything is perfect anywhere, but the voice of protest is not so quickly clamped down upon here as it is in Russia, which may be why Pussy Riot chose to release such a video in the United States. The most they might attract are protest statements from the police unions.

But if this was released in Russia, showing them buried in Russian riot gear like that, I’m sure the risk would be considerable.

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