Bloodhound Gang face criminal charges in Russia for allegedly "inciting hatred and enmity" with their actions or words during performances in Ukraine earlier this summer.
According to a statement posted on a website for Russia's Investigative Committee, bassist Jared Hennegan wiped his genitals with a Russian flag he inserted into his pants and then flung it into an audience during a July 30 performance in Kiev, Ukraine. Reports say Hennegan also urinated on a Ukranian flag during the gig.
During a July 31 show in Odessa, the statement accuses Hennegan and Bloodhound Gang frontman Jimmy Pop (real name James Moyer Franks) of anti-Russian on-stage rhetoric.
Billboard reports either Russian authorities or management for the Kubana festival pulled the plug on a Bloodhound Gang performance scheduled for early August.
Russia subsequently banned Bloodhound Gang from its soil for five years, and the Ukraine also banned Jared Hennegan for the same period. Whether the Russian Investigative Committee will place Hennegan and Franks on a "wanted list" and push for the band to stand trial in Russia is "under consideration".
Bloodhound Gang's actions in Russia, if true, are certainly incendiary. But aside from urinating in public and tossing genital-sweat-soaked flags to the audience, the actions Russian authorities wish to criminally charge as "anti-Russian" would be protected under the First Amendment had these incidents occurred stateside. The media, both news and social, would certainly do a number on anyone doing such things to an American flag, but basic individual freedom would win out in the long run.
Now, I'm skeptical of this story because the Russian government has earned a reputation for bullying and persecuting dissenters over the past few years.
There's the globe-spanning saga of feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, some of whose members were jailed for hooliganism after performing and filming a video in a church. The Pussy Riot case quickly became an international Cause célèbre.
More recently, the Russian Government passed laws targeting the LGBT community. These measures decrease the rights and freedoms of LGBT folks and are coupled with authorities generally turning a blind eye to LGBT people who become victims of hate crimes. More information about this can be found at http://www.facebook.com/DumpRussianVodka.
We're also only hearing Russia's side of the story. For instance, what if Bloodhound Gang did, in fact, do these things - but these actions and words were protests against the Russian Government?
As for Bloodhound Gang, we'll keep you updated on further developments regarding the criminal charges they face in Russia. Though I doubt Russia will attempt to have them extradited, I'm no legal expert. Ultimately, I predict the story ends with Bloodhound Gang simply never returning to Russia.