Ed Koch Opposes Pussy Riot's Actions, Compares Them to ACT UP

By Camille Beredjick

Originally published on Advocate.com August 21 2012 2:42 PM ET

In a commentary on Russian punk band Pussy Riot's recent arrest, former New York City mayor Ed Koch defended President Vladimir Putin's action imprisoning three members of the group, reports Politicker.

What's more, he compared the group's actions to a similar demonstration by the AIDS activist organization ACT UP in December 1989, when protesters disrupted a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral to loudly oppose John Cardinal O'Connor's statements on abortion, homosexuality, and AIDS. According to The New York Times, 111 people were arrested, including 43 inside the church.

Koch writes:

"The Western cultural elite is rallying to the defense of the disrupters in the cathedral. ...I would assume that many Pussy Riot supporters would take a different position, and rightly so, if here in the U.S. a black church were invaded and three men or women engaged in comparable conduct insulting holy places within the church and the pastor. I recall when I was Mayor in 1989 and the AIDS activist group Act Up, unjustifiably angry with John Cardinal O’Connor, invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral and interrupted the Mass, throwing the Communion wafers – which for Catholics are the actual Body of Christ – to the floor." 

According to a New York Times article from 1990 about ACT UP, the St. Patrick's Cathedral protest did anger people, including some AIDS activists who were frustrated that the conversation had shifted to focus on religious freedom. Koch touches on this aspect of the Pussy Riot controversy too:

"I do not believe the issue is properly one of freedom of expression. The right to free expression is not unlimited and does not mean one can say anything anywhere and at anytime. Further, Russia and most countries do not have embedded in their law the Constitutional protection of the First Amendment that we do. I for one am delighted they now punish religious hatred. Aren’t you?"

Koch's full commentary can be found here.