Michigan rap group Insane Clown Posse and four of their fans filed suit on Wednesday against the US Justice Department and FBI, claiming that the Bureau’s classification of ICP fans, or Juggalos, as a “hybrid” criminal gang violated their constitutional rights, leading to harassment by police and caused them “significant harm.”
The New York Times reports the lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court in Detroit by lawyers for the band and for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. Plaintiffs include the Insane Clown Posse founders Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, known as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, and four Juggalos who offered testimony of being subjected to police harassment and other infringements for identifying with Insane Clown Posse.
“It’s time for the FBI to come to its senses and recognize that Juggalos are not a gang but a worldwide family united by the love of music,” said Joseph Bruce (aka Violent J) in a statement from the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union. “There has never been—and will never be—a music fan base quite like Juggalos, and while it is easy to fear what one does not understand, discrimination and bigotry against any group of people is just plain wrong and un-American.”
Juggalos and Juggalettes or, Lo’s and Lette’s, are words used to describe those who actively follow the rap-metal. They are known for painting their faces like clowns, emulating the duo and for displaying the “hatchetman” logo and other ICP insignia on their clothing, jewellery, body art and bumper stickers.
On of the Juggalo plaintiffs Brandon Bradley, a 20-year-old man from California, testified to numerous occasions where he was stopped and detained by police and interrogated about being a Juggalo with his affiliated tattoos and clothing. Another plaintiff, Scott Gandy, from North Carolina, was told he would not be accepted in the Army because his ICP tattoo was a gang symbol.
The inception of these events date back to 2011 when the FBI’s third National Gang Threat Assessment described Juggalos as “a loosely organized hybrid gang” whose members “pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature.”
In 2012, ICP’s lawyers and their record label, Psychopathic Records, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI to obtain documents the federal government used to justify officially labelling Juggalos as a criminal gang. When those documents were released, the ICP team claim they contained nothing that would warrant the gang classification.
In an interview with Music Feeds last year, which you can hear below, Shaggy 2 Dope explained seeing the effect the gang classification had on ICP fans and the responsibility the band felt to defend them. “[Fans] were getting persecuted twice as hard because they’re considered gang members,” he said. “We had to file a lawsuit, we had to do something about it.”
The Michigan American Civil Liberties Union says “Juggalos are not an organized fan club, but a group of people who bond over the music and a philosophy of life, much like “Deadheads” bonded around the Grateful Dead.” This suit claims that amongst the supporters of any group you can find criminal activity but, “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.”
The Department of Justice have not commented on the lawsuit yet, but stay peeled as we bring you more information as it rolls in.
Listen: Music Feeds Podcast Episode #48 – Insane Clown Posse