The Insane Clown Posse is not something missing from any part of the circus. Rather, they are a hip hop duo who has decided to sue the FBI for a 2011 report describing their fans, known as Juggalos, as a gang. The Insane Clown Posse has decided to take on the FBI because they say that being labeled as gang members has hurt their business as well as tarnished their fans’ reputations.
Based in Michigan, the Insane Clown Posse is known for their rebellious and often harsh music, which contains a lot of language and often controversial lyrics. In the theme of their name, they also paint their faces like clowns. For their press conference held in Detroit Wednesday, they had their face paint on, ready for war.
Four fans have been named as plantiffs in the case filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the two band members, Joseph Utsler (known as Shaggy 2 Dope) and Joseph Bruce (Violent J). The lawsuit claims that the FBI’s labeling of fans as a gang violates the free speech amendment and tramples on due process rights.
The FBI included the Juggalos in the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report, describing them as a hybrid gang with a loose organization, saying that many have committed smaller crimes such as vandalism, drugs, theft and assault, while a few have also stepped into more serious criminal activity. They claim that some of the Juggalos are organizing into groups and engaging in gang-like activity such as selling drugs and felony assaults.
The two band members say that they prefer to describe their fans as like a family rather than a gang, and that they hope this lawsuit will get the Juggalos pulled from the report. The Insane Clown Posse claims that the FBI report has caused them to take on a lot of problems. Merchandising is way down because fans are afraid to post their love of the band for fear of reprisal, mainly from the government.
Fans who have identified themselves as Juggalos have lost custody battles, jobs, and been denied housing, Bruce declared. It also seems to be a reason for police harassment, as one of the plaintiffs described being pulled over multiple times in California and interrogated about his Juggalo affiliation. Another plaintiff described how he had attempted to enlist in the Army, but was rejected because his Insane Clown Posse tattoos were considered to be gang symbols. He spent thousands of dollars having the tattoos removed at the request of a recruiter, but the Army refused him again anyway.
While the American Civil Liberties Union has just become involved in the case, this isn’t the first rodeo for the Insane Clown Posse and the FBI. The band sued the government in 2012 in an attempt to understand why the Juggalos were included as a gang in the threat assessment report and have obtained over 100 pages from the FBI. However, most of the pages are simple newspaper clippings about the arrests of Juggalos, and the FBI has refused to give up other documentation to the band, referring to the Freedom of Information Act to prevent their release.
Now it is time for round two, and the Insane Clown Posse has a major rights activist group on their side as they attempt to take on the FBI once more and clear the names of their Juggalo fans.
By Marisa Corley