As a disclaimer, this article contains swear words and a video posted below that shows eventual nudity that may not be easy on your eyes (protrusions and all that jazz.) This article also contains the word “Juggalo” and its variants 51 times.
Like a smarmy jester’s cat trying to rid itself of immortal fleas was the lengthy legal branding of classifying Insane Clown Posse’s (ICP) fans (known as Juggalos (male) and Juggalettes (female)) as gang members.
For the unfamiliar: ICP is a horror rap duo composed of Joseph Bruce (Violent J) and Joseph Utsler (Shaggy 2 Dope) from Detroit, Michigan – they’ve been releasing albums since ’92, have sold over 6.5 million records, were interviewed by Bill O’Reilly, have been in a movie with The Misfits, wrested in the WWE, and made a rape victim cry on Loveline.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland threw out a lawsuit filed by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan on behalf of ICP against the FBI and Justice Department that would invalidate the government agencies in listing Juggalos as a criminal gang.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Cleland cited a 2011 FBI report in which law enforcement tabbed Juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang” that was growing nation wide. Cleland said that the report "does not recommend any particular course of action for local law enforcement to follow, and instead operates as a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, assessment of nationwide gang trends."
With plans to appeal, this is the third time ICP has sued the FBI, and being no stranger to the curse of getting the worst attention, now has to deal with the fact that the US government recognizes Juggalos, their dedicated fan base, as a gang. Constitutional rights to free speech and due process were considered by the duo and the Michigan ACLU to be violated by the FBI report, and the protocol that followed with it.
Those who bear any ICP or Juggalo related merchandise raise suspicion with law enforcement due to the possible inclination that they may be part of a gang.
Mark Parsons of Nevada, one of the plaintiffs sided with ICP, said that Tennessee police detained him for parading one of ICP’s Hatchetman logos on his truck. It looks like this:
“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,” the Michigan ACLU said in a statement when the suit was filed in January.
“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 participant in the suit was Scott Gandy of North Carolina, a US Army recruiter who said he had to spend hundreds of dollars in order to hide his Juggalo tattoos – the military deemed them “gang related” body art.
So what incidents lead up to the accumulative speculation and finality that Juggalos could be considered are gang members? Objectively, are Juggalos and ICP fans both separate components? Or are they, for the most part, the same?
In short, it’s been a long history of bad apples.
What is a Juggalo?
“My Juggalos!” Violent J said, addressing a gratified audience at a concert in Detroit circa 1994. This was the first time fans became acclimated to the word, and it was well received – it comes from Violent J’s alter ego, “The Juggla.” Onwards, its usage grew in future songs by ICP.
In 1997, ICP released The Great Milenko, their fourth studio album that was under Disney owned record label Hollywood Records. Complaints at the time by the Southern Baptist Church forced Disney’s hand in removing all 100,000 albums from stores, ultimately terminating their contract with ICP, which, subsequently, lead to the rap duo signing with Island Records.
The album’s 9th track, “What Is a Juggalo?” can’t even reach to a conclusion on what a Juggalo actually is, but states the following attributes:
- Carefree: “He just don’t care.”
- Drunk/Friendly: “He drinks like a fish, and he starts hugging people like a drunk bitch…”
- Unstable: “A fucking lunatic…”
- Unique/Anus Magician: “He ain’t like anybody that you’ve ever met before. He’ll eat Monopoly and shit out Connect Four.”
- Classist: “He’ll walk through the hills and beat down a rich boy.”
- Real/Lewd: “He ain’t a phony, he’ll walk up and bust a nut in your macaroni.”
- Undefined: “I don’t know.”
Perhaps one of the best attempts at illustrating Juggalos is through Sean Dunne’s “American Juggalo”; a documentation on the fields of Cave-In-Rock, Illinois where the thirteen annual Gathering of the Juggalos took place:
For certain, if a majority can speak for the entirety, Juggalos not only love ICP’s music, but also emphasize the collective consciousness that they’re part of a family – this goes for both gang and non-gang related members.
Ross Benes of Esquire magazine put it best, writing that ICP’s popularity is due to not being so much a band as it is “similar to a church or support group… …a social conduit that brings together self-perceived outsiders who find comfort in congregating around others who are convinced society has it out for them.”
Proudly, ICP has always identified their fan base as life’s most unwanted outcasts, people who’ve been set aside from an expected normality; if you’re the ugliest or dumbest kid out there, you’re welcome to a loving lot that is hated by many – you’re never alone.
Die-hard fans of ICP have practically adopted a lifestyle, being down with the clown ‘til their dead in the ground. Dedication is an understatement for some devotees.
Fans have Juggalo-themed weddings:
Even newborns dawn the clown makeup from their Juggalo parents:
What sparked the notion that Juggalos could be gang members?
Splintered in a group of over one million fans across the United States is the estimated 10-15% of Juggalos who make up a criminal element. Law enforcement officials reported incidents in 21 states involving criminal Juggalos. Momentum of the labeling escalated when crimes perpetrated by those who affiliated as Juggalos rose, resulting in the 2011 FBI Report. Crimes were first light, but got heavier as time went on:
According to a special report on gangs in June 2010 by the Rocky Mountain Information Network (RMIN), an investigation headed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety Gang Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (GIITEM) in 2004 cited incidents at Palo Verde High School in Tucson, Arizona, where a student was being harassed for unknown reasons. The delinquents were a group of juveniles who called themselves Juggalos; the State of Arizona was the first to document and recognize Juggalos as a gang in 2007, with lead detective Hal Van Woert concluding that:
“Juggalos have adopted the message and philosophy of ICP and others on the Psychopathic Records label as a mission and a total lifestyle. They immerse themselves in the imagery and listen to the music whenever and wherever they can. They meet at annual and semiannual ‘gatherings,’ and they share their views and thoughts (such as they are) on numerous Internet sites. In short, the message of ICP is, for the true die-hard Juggalos, not what they hear, but what they ARE.”
The FBI found in their 20ll report that since 2004, Arizona municipalities reported Juggalo gang sets in Navajo Nation, Tohono O’odham Nation, Fort McDowell Reservation, Mesa, Tempe and Tucson.
In 2008, Juggalos part of a gang called the Rez Crew were charged with animal cruelty after they engaged in dog mutilation at a park in Fort McDowell, Arizona. The group’s leader was only 14 when she attacked a boy with a hatchet.
In September 2008, Dewey W Dixon, a member of the Juggalo Rydas Bitch gang, shot up an apartment with a Mac-10 semiautomatic – he was charged with a 15-year prison sentence, The Pitch reported.
On October 9th, 2010, the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety found in their Gangs in New Jersey: Municipal Law Enforcement Response to the 2010 NJSP that Juggalos were the most active recruiting gang in the state.
That same year marked the first reported incident of Juggalo on Juggalo violence; a Juggalo gang called the Juggalo Killers attacked a 19-year-old Juggalette that wasn’t affiliated with any criminal element. The gang members jumped the victim, stole her bike, and carved “JK” into her chest as a means to declare that they should be the only ones wearing Insane Clown Posse related merchandise.
It gets so much worse…
In August 2014, the Las Vegas Sun reported that 21-year-old Stephen Giles, a Juggalo gang member in northeast Las Vegas, was arrested after allegedly attacking 31-year-old Anthony Castellanos, slicing his back twice with two meat cleavers. Police found 0.4 grams of methamphetamine in Gile’s left sock.
Finally… the biggest enchilada of them all:
Wonkette reported in May 2013 that Bucky Rogers, a 24-year-old Juggalo, stockpiled guns, pipe bombs, and Molotov cocktails in his parents’ mobile home. Rogers was part of his family’s domestic terrorist group called the Black Snake Militia (BSM), which was set to engage in a bloody revolution and raid on the local National Guard armory in order to acquire weapons. Court documents showed that one of the members became an FBI informant after learning about the violent plans made forth by the BSM.
Much like baggy dressed suburbanites, not all Juggalos are gang members – law enforcement knows this, despite arousing suspicion of the possibility.
The 2011 FBI report concluded in its investigation that law enforcement must “be willing to take that extra step in our intelligence gathering to see if we are in fact dealing with a gang member or just a crazed fan.”
In March 2010, detective Michelle Vasey told ABC News:
"I don't want people to go out there and look at every Juggalo and say, 'Oh, he's a gang member, he's got a machete and he's going to slice and dice everybody.' But people need to be aware that there are huge issues that have evolved in just the last three years both in the eastern and western United States where we've got multiple individuals committing gang-related crimes, gang-motivated crimes, and they're using the name Juggalo."
Still, ICP, non violent Juggalos, and the Michigan ACLU are hell-bent on appealing the branding.
“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.” Violent J said in a joint statement with the Michigan ACLU.
“This is not the end -- we’ll keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name.”
Correlation is not causation, guilt by association, which explains the frustration for the situation.