January 9, 2014
The Insane Clown Posse (ICP), a Detroit rap duo which enjoys a large and obsessive fan base, has launched a federal lawsuit against the US Justice Department and the FBI in retaliation for classifying their fans as members of a criminal gang.
Four fans of the band, which is famous for their flamboyant clown makeup emulated by their followers, known as “Juggalos,” from the states of Nevada, California, Iowa and North Carolina joined forces with its two founders, Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, to fight the criminal designation. The Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union is also taking part in the suit on behalf of ICP.
The band is known for holding raucous music festivals, though according to the new suit filed on Wednesday authorities have crossed the line and infringed on their constitutionally protected freedom of speech and expression by treating fans of the group as a criminal element.
“Their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated when the U.S. government wrongly and arbitrarily classified the entire fan base as a “hybrid” criminal gang,” says the ACLU.
According to Mark Parsons of Nevada, who is taking part in the suit filed on Wednesday, Tennessee state troopers detained him for displaying the ICP logo on his truck.
“Parsons considers himself one of the original fans of ICP, having attended shows and supported the band for years. In honor of the band, Mark named his own trucking company Juggalo Express, LLC and decorated his big rig with the image of a Hatchetman,” said a statement by the Michigan ACLU.
“While Mark was hauling cargo in a tractor-trailer emblazoned with an ICP logo, he was detained for a safety inspection by a Tennessee State Trooper. When Mark asked why he was stopped, the Trooper replied it was because the logo was associated with a gang ‘according to the FBI.’”
Another of the suit’s participants, Scott Gandy of North Carolina, says he was forced to spend hundreds of dollars concealing his Juggalo tattoos as a US Army recruit after the military deemed them “gang related” body art.
“Among the supporters of almost any group — whether it be a band, sports team, university, political organization or religion — there will be some people who violate the law,” reads the suit.
“However, it is wrong to designate the entire group of supporters as a criminal gang based on the acts of a few. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here.”
The case can be traced back to a 2011 report published by the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center, which described Juggalos as “a loosely organized hybrid gang” whose members were “expanding into many US communities,” reports the New York Times.
According to that FBI report, entitled “National Gang Threat Assessment: Emerging Trends,” ICP fans were involved in several incidents which legitimized the threat assessment issued by the agency, including one case where “two suspected Juggalo associates were charged with beating and robbing an elderly homeless man.”
The ICP had filed an earlier lawsuit in 2012 against the FBI for disclosure of the bureau’s justification for classifying their fans as members of a gang. The bureau filed a motion to dismiss that suit in August.
“We’re not a gang, we’re a family. We’re a diverse group of men and women, united by our love of music and nothing more. We’re not a threat, a public menace or a danger to society,” said Utsler during a press conference announcing their latest lawsuit.