As you may recall, when the FBI wrote up its National Gang Threat Assessment report in 2011, it ridiculously included the Juggalos, better known as fans of The Insane Clown Posse. And while certain Juggalos may, at times, get a bit rowdy, declaring all of them to be a gang clearly went too far. Yet, including them in the National Gang Threat Assessment report is kind of a big deal. That’s because law enforcement agencies actually pay attention to the FBI report and use it as a guideline for policy, resulting in a bunch of music fans experiencing very real police action. Officers citing the report questioned, searched, and otherwise harassed ICP fans where they otherwise would not have. That led to the ACLU and ICP teaming up in a lawsuit to get the Juggalos dropped from the report and get relief from law enforcement agencies everywhere now operating under the belief that a group of passionate music fans were somehow a criminal organization.
Well, the DOJ has now formally requested that the lawsuit be dropped. The rationale? Because what law enforcement agencies do with the FBI’s report is, like, totally not the FBI’s fault, man.
Justice Department attorney Amy Powell said the group and its fans have no standing to sue. She said the government is not responsible for how police agencies use information in the 2011 national gang report. Powell said a “subjective chill” as alleged by plaintiffs was not enough to be in court.
“There is no general right of protection to a social association,” she said, referring to First Amendment violations argued by Insane Clown Posse and its fans.
It’s an interesting theory to put forth, that the FBI, essentially the king of domestic police agencies, has no culpability for local police using its report, which included the demonizing of music fans. In other words, the FBI can simply label any group it likes a gang organization without recourse. Local police will, of course, simply point back to the report when questioned about their activities, and now we have a recursive loop of non-responsibility. I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of government agency golden egg.
As for there being no right of protection to a social association in the First Amendment, I mean…it does say no law shall be made prohibiting the right of peaceful assembly. If gang laws lead to the FBI putting out a report that causes law enforcement to continually harass groups of citizens not committing any crime, how many degrees of separation from Congress do we have to go before the First Amendment doesn’t matter any longer?
In addition, the DOJ also claimed that its latest gang list no longer includes the Juggalos, and believes that law enforcement will no longer make use of the 2011 one, so everyone should just chill out. In short: “bygones.” According to the DOJ, it’s fine for the FBI to label a group of music fans a criminal gang and have its members harassed for a bit, just so long as, by the time a lawsuit comes about, the FBI no longer considers them a gang.
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