This week U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland threw out a lawsuit against the FBI concerning the definition of a gang. The hip hop group Insane Clown Posse brought the lawsuit over the FBI’s 2011 Gang Assessment that labeled the ICP makeup-wearing fanbase as gang members. The lawsuit’s failure confirms the FBI’s judgement that ICP fans, or Juggalos, are considered gang members.
The dismissal of the case has been met with anger from ICP members Joeseph Ulster and Joseph Bruce, aka Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, who have vowed in a statement to “keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name”. They later concluded that “while it’s easy to fear what one does not understand, discrimination and bigotry against any group of people is just plain wrong and un-American.”
What’s most troubling is the judge’s statement that the FBI’s report “does not recommend any particular course of action for local law enforcement to follow, and instead operates as a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, assessment of nationwide gang trends.” So the report impresses the stigma of being a gang onto Juggalos without actually recommending any appropriate action for law enforcement. This essentially gives the police a blank check for suspicion against anyone doing so much as wearing an ICP t-shirt.
The threat of Juggalo related crime increased in the last few years with a growing schism between casual fans and actual organized gangs using the Juggalo makeup. In 2010 Arizona Detective Michelle Vasey noticed a rise of crime being perpetrated by make up wearing assailants. “I don’t want people to go out there and look at every Juggalo and say, ‘Oh, he’s a gang member, he’s got a machete and he’s going to slice and dice everybody, but people need to be aware that there are huge issues that have evolved in just the last three years both in the eastern and western United States where we’ve got multiple individuals committing gang-related crimes, gang-motivated crimes, and they’re using the name Juggalo.”
The FBI came to their decision due to a series of “individualistic instances of crime”. It’s an odd logic that needs to use the word individualistic to justify the labeling of a gang. Does this now mean that fans of Gwar, KISS, Marylyn Manson, and Slipknot classify as gang members? After all, many fans of these bands have engaged in criminal activity. And will this judgment carry over to others wearing facepaint? Perhaps those who frequent stadiums and often physically attack others who wear a different symbol than theirs?
Since 2011 no other FBI reports have mentioned Juggalos in gang related activity. While ICP fans are used to being ridiculed by outsiders, it becomes a more serious matter when those fans are denied approval for housing, lose their jobs or lose custody of children due to this profiling. It crosses a line that is sure to have drastic implications for the future, and not just for Juggalos.