Margaret Eby
February 18, 2015 1:56 pm

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, two members of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band who were jailed after an anti-Putin protest in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral, have put out their first English song and music video. And the subject that they decided to tackle? Police violence in the United States, specifically the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD last July.

The title of the video is “I Can’t Breathe,” Garner’s last words as he was put in the police chokehold that ultimately ended his life. The song is dedicated not just to Garner but to the victims of police brutality all over the world.

In the video for the song, the two women, dressed in the uniform of Russian riot police, are slowly being buried alive. It’s a powerful, distressing image, and it’s meant to be.

“Illegal violence in the name of the state kills not only its victims, but those who are chosen to carry out these actions,” they told Buzzfeed. “Policemen, soldiers, agents, they become hostages and are buried  with those they kills, both figuratively and literally.”

They wrote the song during the protests in the wake of the grand jury that failed to indict the police officer who had put Garner in a chokehold — they had traveled to the U.S. to participate in the protests. But the song also refers to the anti-Putin demonstrations in 2012, in which dozens of people were jailed.

The women collaborated with a bunch of acts on this important and powerful track including Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow, punk musician Richard Hell, and two well-known Russian artists Scofferlane and Jack Wood.

In a statement Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina said:

“This song is for Eric and for all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror — killed, choked, perished because of war and state-sponsored violence of all kinds — for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change, We’ve known, on our own skin, what police brutality feels like and we can’t be silent on this issue.”

Fans of Pussy Riot will notice their sound is a bit different too. The two explained in their statement, “The absence of our usual aggressive punk vocals in this song is a reaction to this tragedy.”

Have a look at the video, shot in one long take. It’s chilling, moving, distressing and only serves to reaffirm the incredible power of music.

[Image via]

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