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Insane Clown Posse, Juggalos sue FBI over gang designation

Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio
Violent J (Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler) are the duo behind Insane Clown Posse

The rap duo Insane Clown Posse has filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI. The group says the government’s designation of its fan base as a “hybrid criminal gang” is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed the suit on behalf of ICP and four of its fans, who call themselves Juggalos.

The ACLU says the gang designation has made Juggalos targets of harassment by law enforcement, and that the designation violates Juggalos’ First Amendment and due process rights.

Among the plaintiffs is a man who says the U.S. Army told him he could not enlist because of his affiliation, and other fans who say they’ve been detained by police for sporting ICP paraphernalia.

“They’re punishing our fans,” said Joseph Bruce, whose stage name is Violent J. “They’re saying, ‘you can listen to them, but if we catch you representing them in any way, shape or form, you’ll be punished.' When is the last time that happened in this country? I don’t ever remember that happening in this country.”

ICP is known for nightmarish music known as “horrorcore,” but some of its songs are relentlessly positive, like “Miracles”:


The gang designation came in a 2011 report  by the National Gang Intelligence Center. It cited crimes committed by Juggalos, ranging from petty theft to beating and robbing a homeless man. But attorneys for the band say it’s absurd to paint all the band’s fans with such a broad brush.

“What would it be like if the Justice Department decided to brand all Deadheads -- fans of the Grateful Dead -- not just as criminals, but as criminal gangs because some of them used or even sold drugs?” asked cooperating attorney Saura Sahu. “I think we would think that was ridiculous.”

The complaint seeks the Juggalos’ removal from the gang list.

Listen to band member Violent J talk about the origins of the group’s face paint, being misunderstood, and the camaraderie felt between Juggalos:

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Public's Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.