WASHINGTON (AP) — About a dozen demonstrators were protesting outside the Russian Embassy in Washington as three members of a provocative punk band were found guilty of hooliganism.

The three women were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral where they high-kicked and danced while singing a “punk prayer” pleading with the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a third term as Russia’s president two weeks later.

Judge Marina Syrova said in her verdict that the band members “committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred.” She rejected the women’s arguments that they were protesting the Orthodox Church’s support for Putin and didn’t intend to offend religious believers.

The protesters arrived at the embassy on Wisconsin Avenue at daybreak Friday. The protest was hosted by Amnesty International, which said it gave the embassy a petition on Tuesday with 70,000 signatures asking for the prisoners to be released.

Later Friday, a Russian court sentenced each of the three band members to two years in prison. The trial has drawn international outrage and several celebrities have also called for the band members to be freed.

Other protests were planned in five other U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore. and San Francisco.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)