Every year Juggalos paint their faces, pull on hatchet man t-shirts, and drink way too many bottles of Faygo soda at the Gathering of the Juggalos music festival, which came to a close this weekend. While the fans of Insane Clown Posse (ICP) have found a common bond over their favorite underground music acts and similar upbringing, nothing may have brought them closer than their opposition to the FBI's classification of Juggalos as a "hybrid gang," in their 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report. The report said Juggalos could "exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence."
The classification from the federal government was troublesome because local law enforcement often look to the feds for guidance on gangs in their communities. In a lawsuit brought by ICP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Juggalos claimed the classification infringed on their First Amendment right to express themselves.
For more, watch my March 2014 story, Juggalos vs. the FBI: Why the Fans of Insane Clown Posse are Not a Gang. Here's the original text for that story:
You may already know Juggalos, the fans of Detroit horrorcore rap group Insane Clown Posse (ICP), from Buzzfeed lists, television shows like Workaholics, or music videos like "Juggalo Island." But, you may not know that Juggalos are one of the best examples of a self-reliant (but demonized) community.
Juggalos began to garner a lot of mainstream attention in 2011 when they were classified as a "hybrid gang" by the FBI in their National Gang Threat Assessment report. The report says Juggalos could "exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence."
Juggalos at the 2013 Gathering of the Juggalos, a music festival held in Cave-in-Rock, Illinois, told Reason TV that they disputed the claims made by the FBI.
"That's stereotyping pretty much," said one Juggalo. "You know people who don't listen to the music or are not a fan or a family are going to think we are violent people when they see hatchet men [emblem of Juggalos] or Juggalo stuff."
Insane Clown Posse's members, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, agree and are suing the FBI along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, claiming that profiling Juggalos as a gang violates Juggalos' constitutional right to express themselves. Further, the gang classification could subject Juggalos to routine stops, detainment, and interrogation by local and federal law enforcement based solely on their music preferences.
"I think it's ridiculous to consider the Juggalos a gang," says journalist Camille Dodero, who has written about Juggalos and Insane Clown Posse for Gawker and the Village Voice. "In some ways it's almost ironic. These are a group of people that no one else in America has ever cared about and then this one band gave them a sense of identity–like it was a support group."
Dodero says Juggalos often come from lower class backgrounds and although some of them commit crimes, not all of them do.
"And that's not to say that there are that many kids doing it. It just so happened that somebody caught onto the fact that those kids who have that hatchet man sometimes steal things," says Dodero. "That is part of who ICP has been reaching though, people with really bad upbringings."
ICP, who grew up in lower-class households just like their fans, have targeted victims as their audience. These include kids who were homeless, came from an abusive family, or were molested. The result is a world where these young people have escaped the life they were dealt for a supportive community they've helped create. One they lovingly refer to as "family."
The FBI said it could not comment on pending litigation, but the effects of the gang label may have already impacted the next Gathering of the Juggalos. The 2014 music festival had to change locations multiple times thanks in part to the fears of local residents, fears Insane Clown Posse has said are associated with the gang classification.
For a behind the scenes look at the filming of this documentary short check out Reason TV's Instagram account:
Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Field produced by Alex Manning and Detrick. Additional camera by Jim Epstein.