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Court won’t stop FBI from calling Insane Clown Posse and juggalos a gang

Warning: This press conference contains explicit language and clown makeup.

The Aryan Brotherhood.

Mara Salvatrucha.

Insane Clown Posse?


The Insane Clwon Posse at the 2003 Billboard Music Awards (Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

As unlikely as it would seem, fans of the former Island recording artists from Detroit called Insane Clown Posse were included alongside some pretty heavy hitters in the FBI’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.

The FBI alleged that “juggalos,” as ICP fans are called, “exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence.”

Ha, ha. Bad rappers wearing bad makeup accosted by feds. Funny story, right?

But, according to a suit filed against the Department of Justice and the FBI by the band and four juggalos with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, the implication that Insane Clown Posse is an actual posse led to real discrimination.

Plaintiffs alleged that looking like a juggalo — sporting ICP tattoos or the band’s Hatchetman logo — led to police stops, a concert cancellation and, for one young man, being turned away by an Army recruiter.

Even an Army corporal with ICP tattoos who served in Afghanistan and Iraq said he feared involuntary discharge.

As ICP founder Joseph Bruce, a.k.a. Violent J, explained — in clown makeup — at a unique press conference: “Discrimination based on the type of music a person listens to is flat out ridiculous and un-American bulls–t. In this country we have the right to listen to the music we want and associate with fellow fans without being subjected to harassment and criminal profiling.”

Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan disagreed.

The court’s problem with the juggalos’ argument: The different law enforcement agencies allegedly aligned against the ICP are “third-party actors” not named in the lawsuit.

In legalese: “An injunction mandating the retraction of the 2011 NGTA, even if warranted, would not compel or enjoin any action by the various independent actors who allegedly caused Plaintiffs’ injuries, and who are not parties to this action.”

Translation: Even if juggalos aren’t on the FBI’s gang list, cops will hate them anyway.

The ICP will not be moved.

“This is not the end — we’ll keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name,” Bruce said in a statement. “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.”

“There is no doubt that the FBI created this problem and the solution begins there as well,” Michael J. Steinberg, the ACLU of Michigan’s legal director, said in a statement. “Otherwise, we’ll be playing whack-o-mole to stop local law enforcement agencies from discriminating against our clients, when the agencies are just following the FBI’s lead.” 

The juggalos will appeal.


A closeup of Juggalo name and symbol worn by Joseph Bruce aka Violent J, a member of the Insane Clown Posse, Jan. 8, 2014. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

Additional reporting by Gail Sullivan.

Justin Wm. Moyer is a reporter for The Washington Post's Morning Mix. Follow him on Twitter: @justinwmmoyer.

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