US Hip Hop Fans March on Washington to Protest Gang Designation
Fans of the American hip hop group the Insane Clown Posse will march on Washington Saturday in protest of their designation as a street gang by the federal government.
On Saturday, the Insane Clown Posse (ICP), along with thousands of their diehard fans — who refer to themselves as “Juggalos” — will gather near the Lincoln Memorial to make a “collective statement from the Juggalo family to the world about what we are and what we are not.”
“At this point, it’s time for everyone to put up or shut up. You say you’re a recording artist who supports the Juggalo Family’s fight against discrimination? Then be there. Live. In person,” the rap duo said in a message to fans promoting the event.
The march is just the latest step taken by ICP and its fans to fight their designation by U.S. authorities as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” The issue stems from a 2011 report produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in which Juggalos are said to “exhibit ganglike behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence.”
The ICP is known for its unique brand of horror rap that often includes lyrics referencing drug use and violence. It has attracted a fan base made up largely of poor, white people who’ve built an identity around the music produced by the rap duo and their trademark clown makeup.
“We represent people who weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth but instead with a rusty fork,” one member of the group, Violent J, said during an interview in 1995.
Some fans of the rap group say the gang designation has had a severe negative impact on their lives, with some reporting they’ve been fired from jobs, lost custody of their children or been denied housing because of their support of ICP.
“Being labeled a gang member can be a permanent stain on an individual’s life, since it will come up in a simple background check every single time,” the group said on their website promoting the event.
The FBI, in a statement provided to NBC News, said its report was based on information provided by states and the report specifically notes “the Juggalos had been recognized as a gang in only four states.”
“The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. We investigate activity which may constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security. The FBI cannot initiate an investigation based on an individual’s exercise of their First Amendment rights,” it said.
In 2012, The ICP, with the help of the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sued the FBI claiming the designation unfairly profiles their fans and violates their First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit was initially dismissed by a judge in 2014, but the ICP won an appeal in 2015 ordering a Michigan court to take up the case. The case currently remains under appeal.
ICP members Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, whose real names are Joseph Bruce and Joseph Ulster, are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with four of their fans.
One of the plaintiffs, Scott Gandy, said he had to cover up an ICP tattoo in order to apply to join the military. Another plaintiff, Brandon Bradley, claims to have been repeatedly stopped, questioned and photographed by police in California for wearing Juggalo clothing and having a Juggalo tattoo.
Government lawyers have argued that the FBI report did not label all ICP fans as gang members and did not force the actions taken by any independent police agency, and thus could not be held liable for the actions taken by those police officers.
Unsatisfied with the legal process, the Juggalos are set to march on Washington in the hope of gaining attention for their cause.
“I didn’t have a problem with this country. Then all of a sudden they technically made it illegal to be a Juggalo. It’s like they took that one thing away that made me not have a problem with the government,” Violent J said in a recent interview with Reason.
Jason Webber, a publicist for ICP and an organizer for the event, told NBC he expects about 3,000 people to attend the rally.
The Juggalos won’t be the only group marching Saturday on Washington. Another group, supporters of President Donald Trump, is planning the “Mother of All Rallies” (MOAR) to take place near the Washington Monument, and predicts a crowd of about 5,000 attendees.
The “Mother of All Rallies” moniker appears to be a reference to the Massive Ordinance Air Blast (more commonly known as the Mother of All Bombs), which was dropped earlier this year on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan.
According to its website, the rally is meant to “send a message to the world that the voices of mainstream Americans must be heard.” Organizers say they’ll only allow American flags to be flown and the event is meant to be apolitical.
“No Confederate flags, communist flags, or foreign flags allowed. This is not a Democrat or Republican rally. It’s not a left or right rally,” the group’s website says. “We condemn racists of all colors and supremacy of all colors. Our patriots are of all colors and we are uniting under our constitutional rights.”