Despite appearances, the Juggalo subculture is largely peaceful and often overtly anti-racist — leading many to wonder why the group was labeled a gang by the FBI. The group, devotees of the band known as the Insane Clown Posse, has been protesting the government's decision since it was made in 2011 — but according to a new report from The Washington Post, it seems like law enforcement has been loathe to notice or care. The group is expected to continue being labeled as a gang in the future.
The original FBI report described the loosely affiliated ICP adherants as a "hybrid gang" with "sporadic” crimes and emphasized the importance of individualism within their ethos. The write-up claimed that their “gang-like criminal activity” was on the rise.
Since the FBI had never made any official classifications, their analysis of the Juggalos could not be challenged. In 2014, ICP members Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope attempted to argue in court that the mischaracterization of their fans led to venue cancellations and unnecessary targeting from police, with at least one fan saying his military career was jeopardized. All said that they never knowingly participated in any gang activity. Since no actionable directives about the Juggalos were issued by the FBI, the cases were thrown out.
“The various reputational and personal harms suffered by Appellants in the present case may be the practical consequences of the Juggalo gang designation, but they are not a direct or appreciable legal consequence of the Juggalo gang designation ... no government officials are required to consider or abide by the gang designation,” read a judges decision on the matter. Whether an appeal will be filed by the Juggalos remains to be seen. The Washington Post says that the case could wind up in the Supreme Court, although they describe that possible outcome as "unlikely."
“This is no different than an ACDC tattoo or a Prince tattoo,” said Violent J, pointing to the infamous "hatchetman" insignia. “You could have that tattoo and you could be entered into a gang database and if you’re sentenced for a crime you’re sentenced as a gang member.”
“It’s like labeling Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters a gang. If we don’t stand up for our First Amendment rights, who is next?” echoed Amie Puterbaugh, an ICP fan.
“Among the supporters of almost any group — whether it be a band, sports team, university, political organization or religion — there will be some people who violate the law,” the lawsuit on behalf of the Juggalos reads. “Inevitably, some will do so while sporting the group’s logos or symbols. However, it is wrong to designate the entire group of supporters as a criminal gang based on the acts of a few. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here.”
Reactions to the news on Twitter have been largely derisive:
[Photo: Getty Images]