All Americans Should Defend Juggalos’ Right to Be Down with the Clown
The FBI’s classification of Juggalos as a gang should worry all Americans about the protection of their free speech.
As a reporter, I have interviewed many controversial Americans, from Mike “Bite Off His Opponent’s Ear” Tyson to literal Nazis, but my family and friends have only expressed concerned for my safety over my time with Juggalos. “Don’t die!” someone texts me every year before I travel to Thornville, Ohio, for the annual Gathering of the Juggalos. “Juggalos are dangerous!”
I always laugh at their hysteria. Sure, crazy shit goes down at the Gathering. Juggalos shot firecrackers off RVs last year. Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J ripped up scarecrows in 2015. And who can forget the year Ratchet Regi bathed in milk? But I’ve never seen a fight at the Gathering, and I have witnessed teenagers snort way more drugs at Ultra, an annual EDM festival sponsored by corporations like Uber and Heineken.
Since 2011, though, the FBI has classified Insane Clown Posse and their fans as gang members. The government’s decision turned Juggalo merch into gang symbols and led to profiling of Juggalos. At the Gathering, I’ve heard stories about Juggalos getting pulled over for his bumper sticker of a hatchet man, the logo for ICP’s record label Psychopathic Records, and people losing jobs over their love for ICP.
The attack on ICP is often an attack on what people view as symbols of white poverty. Many ICP fans call themselves “scrubs.” They grew up poor, like ICP. Violent J and Shaggy inverted symbols of poverty—Faygo, broken-down bikes, shitty clothes—and turned them into swagger. ICP helps people feel proud, and their affect has scared both the right and left. I’ve heard snooty, religious relatives blaspheme ICP for cursing and drinking Faygo, a drink they associate with the poor. The soda—yes, something as simple as a brand of soda—has also outraged New York Democrats, who I’ve heard refer to Juggalos as “trashy” and “dumb” for drinking Faygo and listening to “Miracles.”
The band’s critics often point to ICP’s violent lyrics as proof of their danger to society. They do rap about violence. It’s true, but many of their violent lyrics have a more complicated meaning. Take “Chicken Huntin’.” On first listen, the song sounds like an ode to murder rednecks, but as readers of Violent J’s memoir, Behind the Paint, know, Violent J experienced sexual abuse from a hillbilly as a child. Violent J raps about killing pedophiles as a means of expression, healing.
Violent J and Shaggy also do occasionally use murder as a comedic device. People may find the jokes offensive, but the First Amendment protects Americans’ rights to make jokes. All Americans should take seriously the FBI’s classification as a gang
based partially on offensive rap songs. Throughout American history, controversial artists like ICP have had to defend the right o Free Speech for all of us.
In 1988, for instance, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt won a Supreme Court case against televangelist Jerry Falwell. He had sued Flynt for parodying the preacher as a man who enjoyed sex with his mother. The case sounded ridiculous, but the Court ruled in Flynt’s favor, setting a precedent for writers to parody public figures—a ruling that can now be used to defend comics who mock Donald Trump, a president-elect who has discussed curbing writer’s free speech.
On September 16, Juggalos will descend on Washington DC to march and protest the FBI. All Americans should join them. The FBI’s attack on the Juggalos is about more than the right to wear face paint, a rock a Hatchetman tat, and spray Faygo. It’s about the right to say what you want to say when you say it, because if the FBI takes away people’s right to wear clown makeup and sing-a-long to “Chicken Huntin’,” who knows who they will persecute next.
Mitchell Sunderland is a Senior Staff Writer at VICE Media. He has written profiles of Insane Clown Posse, Mike Tyson, Paris Hilton, Ann Coulter, and many other celebrities. He lives in Los Angeles.
March Your Ass Off
There are a lot of good reasons to visit our nation's capitol in September
The summer tourists have, for the most part, gone back to their school-year lives. But it's still warm, the trees are still in bloom and there are all those great, historical sights and museums. Hell, if you're wearing the right baseball cap they might even let you into the White House...
And showing a little Juggalo pride ranks up there with all of them.
As someone who's covered ICP and the Juggalo community since their inceptions (he said, sagely stroking his gray beard), the whole issue of a gang designation has been beyond perplexing. It's maddening, and makes me mad. Spitting mad -- although genteel folks like we know the Juggalos can be do not spit.
It's hard on all concerned to know a) how wrong this is and b) how wrong -- and long -- the whole process seems to get it corrected. I'm hardly the first to note that the measure the government is foisting on the Juggalo world to designate it a gang could well be applied to any group's following. By that criteria the Deadheads are a gang. The Parrotheads. The Beliebers. The difference? Juggalos are a little more intense, maybe a little less clean-cut (although have you smelled the average Deadhead, really?) and show their colors proudly -- which scares the bejeebus out of those who would rather stereotype based on superficial appearance rather than dig in and discover the substance that's really there.
The courts are an answer, of course, and as dedicated Americans we have to have some hope they will provide a remedy. But it takes time to resolve a traffic ticket, much less a case this involved. So the March is a way of pushing the process forward, of making sure the Feds, and the rest of the world, know that neither ICP nor the Juggalos will stand idly by and accept being called a gang, or dangerous in every way.
A strong showing is not only encouraged -- it's mandatory. So get to D.C., march your ass off and show your colors. And be nice to people (i.e., nobody skinny dips in the Basin this time, k?). Join Violent J and Shaggy and show the world the real character of the Juggalos and what a gang DOESN'T look like.
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist based in Detroit. He contributes regularly to Billboard, the New York Times Features Syndicate, Revolver, Digital First Media, Beasley Media Group, WHQG-FM (Milwaukee) and others. He's co-written and edited several books, about Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and more. Graff is also the co-founder and co-producer of the annual Detroit Music Awards.
You Can't Keep A Good Clown Down
It’s been almost exactly two years since I wrote the Metro Times cover story “ICP vs. FBI.” Back at the start of 2014, when I was tipped off about the story by ACLU writer and former MT news editor Curt Guyette, it seemed like a fascinating local-interest news feature. It was also, from a journalistic perspective, an opportunity to speak to the ICP guys about a serious subject. To sit with them and discuss an injustice that was directly affecting them and their fans — you guys. There was no goofing off. The men were in full-make-up on the day of the interview for bullish consistency, but it was immediately apparent that they were taking this seriously. The bullshit that the Juggalos were being put through was clearly hurting them, and not just, as the cynics might point out, financially. This was personal.
Rather naively as it turns out, I never would have imagined that this fight would still be rolling on two years down the line. It seemed so clear cut to me. Of course the Juggalos isn’t an organized criminal gang. You don’t have to like the Juggalos or ICP — you can actively despise them in fact — but to claim that there is gang activity in these waters is ridiculous. My guess at the time was that somebody in power would look at the facts, chuckle at the nonsensical nature of what had gone down, and strike the Juggalos from the gang list. Bang, Pow, Boom! Job done.
That this didn’t happen is beyond weird. So what choice do y’all have? You get up, dust yourselves off, and fight on.
With the Trump presidency forthcoming, this is far from the only social injustice that is going to be in the news in 2017. People are going to be attacked, still, because of their race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation and identity, gender - things will be getting worse before they get better. In the face of this, you Juggalos will likely get hardcore mocked for taking this stance. For me, the fact that you have the weight of the ACLU behind you is telling, because they know that a social injustice is a social injustice. Ranking them is dangerous.
In September, and all of this year during the build up to the March on Washington, you have the opportunity to make your voice heard. To stand up and be counted. You’re going to want to make sure it remains peaceful on the day, and there might be smart-asses around to provoke you. Don’t respond, and keep your buddies in check. The last thing you need is a brawl at an event aiming to prove that you’re not a criminal gang. Eyes on the prize, and keep marching. Because you are on the side of right, and this writer remains confident that, eventually, justice will prevail.
Brett Callwood is the former music editor of the Detroit Metro Times, the author of two books on Detroit rock legends Iggy Pop and the MC5 respectively and a regular contributor to the L.A. Weekly, Westword, Tuscon Weekly and several other nationwide publications.
The Juggalo March: American Patriotism At It's Finest
In a world that is jam packed with anger and game playing and fakery of all varieties, what an amazing chance the Juggalo March on Washington is to tell the world how you feel about being put into a law enforcement blender with true bad guys, cast as gang members. Can you imagine some poor dudes in Asshat, Pakistan doing this?
You would have hoped that some of this misclassification of Juggalos as a gang in the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment released by the U.S. Department of Justice had subsided by now.
The FBI, no doubt feeling the heat of a lawsuit filed by actual Juggalos, decided against putting Juggalos on the list in 2013. Then, just as soon as you think things are cooling out and saner heads are prevailing, the Virginia Department of Correction fires a hard-working woman who was serving as a probation officer. The reason? Because she’s a Juggalette.
So, there is work to do. And the Juggalo March on Washington is a good place to do it. You know, a lot of groups that have marched over the years have brought in guests and speakers to support whatever the message is. Many of them have been celebrities and other popular figures who show up in support. Sometimes it’s a PR move, which is fine. For the Juggalo march, things will be real for a change.
It would be amazing if someone prominent from the outside had the nuts to step up and proclaim themselves in support of the Juggalos and their right to free association and free speech to support bands. Hasn’t really happened yet, but the March is a great opportunity.
I wrote a book that came out in July, Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made, which in part examined the FBI designation, and how it came to be. I was drawn to the story by the idea that any musical group’s following could be determined to be a gang.
Early on, it became clear that the motivation was money. Law enforcement agencies, hungry for some of that sweet gang fighting grant dough, set the bar so low for gang membership that Juggalos became an easy target. And the more gangs out there, the better the chance to get a grant to fight the gangs, real or not. Juggalos were also universally dismissed and despised by music critics and other assorted culture vultures. Juggalos were – and still are in most quarters -- perceived as a group on the margins that can’t and won’t fight back.
Most likely few had any idea that Juggalos could be the victim of this kind of crazy misunderstanding. Even fewer on the other side considered that just for once, the accused would counter the wrongful designation with a lawsuit, as four Juggalos and Psychopathic Records so righteously did.
Going to Washington makes great sense. Check this list of marches of the past. People have been taking their beefs to D.C. since the 1800s. At the top of the coolness heap are righteous groups battling for equality and fairness in spite of gender, sexual preference or race.
Juggalos get to use the March to fight against unethical persecution of anyone by the federal government and their cousins at the state level. And remember, Juggalos are still considered a gang in some places, including the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Juggalos are a subculture, and isn’t America supposed to be respectful of alternative lifestyles and tastes? We hear this all the time, about the importance of tolerance and diversity.
Well, here’s a big-ass dose of diversity, America. Everybody police yourselves and dig in.
Steve Miller has been a journalist for over 20 years and is the author of the recent book "Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made." He has also written several crime novels and other acclaimed music-related books, including "Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock 'N' Roll in America's Loudest City." His work has appeared in People, U.S. News & World Report, High Times, and several other periodicals.
Bigger than Music, Bigger than Hate: The Juggalo March On Washington Represents A Watershed Moment In American Pop Culture
On September 16th, 2017, something unprecedented will occur. Juggalos, as fans of pop icons Insane Clown Posse are known, will join together at the Lincoln Memorial alongside the veteran hip hop duo for a historic march on Washington. The Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse and the whole Psychopathic Records family will be gathering together to protest the F.B.I’s designation of Juggalos as a gang.
Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler) and Violent J (Joseph Bruce), a pair of high school dropouts who single-handedly built a lasting business empire despite regularly being deemed the world’s most hated, and worst band, will follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King and other idealists who took to the streets of our nation’s capitol to passionately make their case to the world.
The Juggalo March on Washington is no mere publicity stunt. Insane Clown Posse may be clowns, but they are dead serious about fighting for their fans’ civil rights and freedom of self- expression. The Juggalo march on Washington is not just about Insane Clown Posse, Juggalos and the F.B.I. It’s about freedom of speech. It’s about the freedom to assemble peacefully. It’s about our God-given, inalienable right to be as weird and different and outrageous as we want as long as we’re not hurting anybody.
The days of Juggalos and Insane Clown Posse meekly asking for their humanity to be recognized are over. The time for action is now. This is about Juggalos demanding that the government and law enforcement recognize their dignity, their freedom, and their right not to be unduly persecuted.
Though Insane Clown Posse and its fanbase have been ridiculed and mocked, hated, and caricatured, they will be marching in a spirit of love and togetherness. The Juggalo March is an opportunity to show the world who we truly are, a tight-knit and compassionate community that supports each other and comes together in joy and celebration, not violence and degradation.
Juggalos will be attacking an F.B.I gang designation that essentially criminalizes the poor, the weird, and the garishly painted. Make no mistake: the F.B.I’s designation of Juggalos as a gang is class warfare at its most overt. It gives law enforcement unlimited leeway to persecute people for being associated with a duo synonymous with white poverty. This dubious designation is yet another instance of law enforcement singling out people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder for surveillance and harassment while simultaneously ignoring or excusing the crimes of the wealthy.
This March was planned long before the Presidential election, but it has taken on new urgency in light of Trump’s election. Juggalos are among a number of scapegoated groups that are aggressively asserting their rights in the face of the frightening rhetoric that characterizes Trump’s campaign. We aren’t going to let people who do not understand or respect us dictate the terms by which we live.
We are going to fight for our vision of an inclusive and tolerant America, where law enforcement works with communities rather than against them, and does not single out groups on the basis of superficial factors. We are standing strong to protest discrimination alongside our brothers and sisters of all different races, creeds, nationalities and sexual orientations.
We did not choose this fight. This fight chose us when the F.B.I decided to vilify people whose only crime is being different. We will not back down. We will not quit. We will not let this injustice stand. We do not think it is right or fair or American for police officers or judges or parole officers to treat people differently because they might have a Hatchet Man tattoo or a hairstyle associated with Juggalos.
Discrimination is wrong no matter who is being discriminated against. We need law enforcement that will protect us rather than work against us. The police are not the enemy. Police brutality is the enemy. Injustice is the enemy. Discrimination is the enemy. We should not have a target on our backs because of the music we choose to listen to.
On September 16th, 2017, Juggalos from around the country and around the world will gather together in peace and positivity, to fight for their vision of a great America. We invite you to join us in our celebration of Insane Clown Posse, Juggalo culture, and the love we feel towards one another and to the world. Together there’s nothing that we cannot accomplish even in a time of great peril, division and hate.
Nathan Rabin is a Juggalo, father, columnist and the author of five books, including two about Insane Clown Posse and Juggalos: 2013’s You Don't Know Me But You Don’t Like Me (one of Rolling Stone’s twenty best music books of the year) and 2016’s 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, the Gathering of the Juggalos and the Summer Everything Went Insane. He has been called “A master Juggalo chronicler” by best-selling author Jon Ronson