Would you consider a “wicked clown” a gang threat or a bad Halloween costume? Fans of rap-metal duo Insane Clown Posse (ICP) have been characterized as drinking Faygo soda and wearing face paint while they listen to the horror-themed rap group. Juggalos, as they are called, have developed their own idioms and slang that they demonstrate at the annual “Gathering of the Juggalos,” an annual festival where they watch ICP perform songs such as “Juggalo Homies,” a famous single that embraces the familial relationship of true friendship. Recently, the FBI identified Juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang” in their 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report. ICP became upset when the FBI failed to respond to their record request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and have sued the FBI in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for information providing an explanation for the gang classification.
ICP’s members, Joseph Bruce (also known as Violent J) and Joseph Utsler (also known as Shaggy 2 Dope) have distinguished themselves in the music world with their supernatural- and horror-based lyrics. Utsler has described their followers, coined Juggalos, as people from all walks of life who come together as a family. The philosophy of the Juggalos was influenced by Bruce’s childhood, where he experienced extreme poverty. As a child, he decided to embrace his lifestyle and turned the secondhand clothes he was forced to wear into something he could be proud of by joining together with his brother and other less fortunate kids to provide familial support.
The National Gang Threat Assessment report accuses Juggalos of having “gang-like behavior” in which they commit crimes and violence, which is supported by a photo of a Juggalo with a painted face and pointed gun. The report also classifies the Juggalos as “a criminal organization formed on the street” and places them with more serious gangs such as MS-13, Crips and Bloods. However, ICP insists their fans are a family, not a gang. The FBI report admits the crimes attributed to the Juggalos are both minor and limited to individuals, but also claims subsets of Juggalos are taking part in more serious crimes such as assaults, thefts, and drug trafficking.
The FBI is concerned with not being equipped to monitor the potential gang threat of the Juggalos. The report states that the “transient, criminal Juggalo groups pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature.” The report reveals charges of suspected Juggalos beating and robbing an elderly man in 2010 and the shooting of a couple in 2011. Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania, and Utah are among the states considering Juggalos a criminal gang. As a result, some schools have prohibited any clothing supporting ICP on school property. The CEO of ICP has insisted any gang-related behavior was not committed by the Juggalos, but by some disturbed individuals using the Juggalo distinction in an attempt to excuse the crime.
In addition to the lawsuit, the Juggalos have created a website known as “Juggalos Fight Back,” where victims can express their concerns of being part of the gang designation. The website gives Juggalos the opportunity to fill out an “Event Statement Regarding Juggalo Legal Action” where they can share their experience for it to be reviewed by ICP’s lawyers, free of charge. The statement encourages complaints regarding law enforcement, border patrol, airline security, and any other governmental agencies or employees as a result of being a Juggalo. ICP’s lawyer, Howard Hertz, expressed that the goal is for Juggalos to be removed from the gang list. Hertz also said they are going through thousands of reports from fans who have suffered negative effects regarding the new gang designation. Reports include complaints of fans who have lost their children, been discharged from the military, and been suspended from school for being associated with ICP.
ICP has stated: “We are not a gang! We are a family! We come together for our luv (sic) of the Insane Clown Posse, Psychopathic Records, and our Juggalo pride. Can we take a . . . second to note that Jimmy Buffett’s Parrot Heads, Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, Justin Bieber’s Beliebers, the Grateful Dead’s Deadheads and many more haven’t been labeled as a gang?” Shaggy 2 Dope has also explained the group’s actions by saying, “You’re trying to grow love in your country . . . then the head of your country—the FBI—just turns around and . . . kicks you in the nuts. How are you supposed to respond to that?” ICP does not believe their fans should be harassed for showing their dedication to the “wicked clowns.”
ICP describes their love for their Juggalos in saying, “Look, I probably love my family more than anybody here, but my homies are family too, 3rd cousins’ get outta here.” However, ICP’s Juggalos may not be as friendly as their lyrics make them out to be.