ICP, ACLU Sue Feds Over Juggalos Gang Classification
By aaroncynic in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 8, 2014 8:45PM
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Insane Clown Posse filed a lawsuit today on behalf of Juggalos nationwide, saying that their constitutional rights were violated by the United States Government.
ICP announced their plans to file the suit at the 2012 “Gathering of the Juggalos” after the FBI included Juggalos in a 2011 Gang Threat Assessment Report. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Juggalos, along with Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, known as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope.
In a press release, Michael J. Steinberg, legal director for the Michigan ACLU said:
“The Juggalos are fighting for the basic American right to freely express who they are, to gather and share their appreciation of music, and to discuss issues that are important to them without fear of being unfairly targeted and harassed by police.”
Juggalos were classified as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang” by authorities for exhibiting “gang-like criminal activity, such as felony assaults, thefts, robberies, and drug sales.” As a result, the ACLU says “individual Juggalos are suffering improper investigations, detentions and other denials of their personal rights at the hands of government officials.” Saura Sahu, an attorney assisting the Michigan ACLU in the suit told Rolling Stone “The FBI had the impact they wanted: they scared people away from attending concerts and from affiliating together for the purpose of listening to music.”
While government officials have yet to comment, the classification was based on several violent instances involving “suspected Juggalo members.” The New York Times reports the threat assessment cited an incident where “two suspected Juggalo associates were charged with beating and robbing an elderly homeless man” and another where two people were shot and wounded. The report also contained a photograph of a woman pointing a gun at the camera while wearing face paint representing the dark carnival.
But, as our former Associate Editor Samantha Abernathy pointed out, do the actions of some rabid fans of a group constitute an organized crime network worthy of this kind of attention from law enforcement? One can throw a rock in most directions of the internet to find fans of numerous music genres posting selfies showing off weapons and tattoos of band logos and the Juggalo family, even when camped out at Cave In Rock for their annual Gathering, appears to be about as organized as a group of heavy metal fans hanging out in a parking lot.
Stories from the other four defendants in the suit highlight what they say is unfair targeting and harassment from law enforcement, based on displays of love and affection for ICP. Mark Parsons, who describes himself as “one of the original fans of ICP” and named his trucking company the Juggalo Express, LLC, said he was detained for a safety inspection by a Tennessee State Trooper. Parsons, who was detained for an hour, said the trooper told him the stop was due to the Hatchetman logo adorning the side of his tractor trailer. Scott Gandy, another defendant, said he was denied the chance to enlist in the Army because of his Juggalo themed tattoos.
The lawsuit asks the feds to remove Juggalos from its list of gangs and goes on to assert the classification is “unconstitutionally vague and violates the Juggalos’ constitutional rights to association and speech.” “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 Violent J. “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.”