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For Now, Insane Clown Posse Fans, aka Juggalos, Are Gang Members

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on July 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You may not be familiar with Insane Clown Posse's music, but you probably are familiar with the way they look. I mean, how many rappers do you know that wear clown makeup? (Yes, we're serious). And, much to our chagrin surprise, they are quite successful and even have a devoted following of fans called Juggalos.

Juggalos show their unity by wearing clown makeup, or sporting HatchetGear, a line of apparel with the Hatchetman logo, as well as other characteristics. Um, so why do we care? Because the FBI does, and because Insane Clown Posse, Juggalos and the ACLU of Michigan have sued the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice -- that's why.

The Juggalos Are a "Hybrid Gang"

In its 2011 National Gang Intelligence Center Report ("2011 Report"), the FBI noted that Juggalos were a "loosely-organized hybrid gang" and that "although recognized as a gang in only four states, many Juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence." The 2013 report does not mention Juggalos or hybrid gangs.

The Complaint

The two members of Insane Clown Posse, along with four Juggalos, sued the FBI and DOJ, arguing the use of the term "hybrid gang" violated their First Amendment freedom of expression and association rights and Fifth Amendment due process rights. Two of the Juggalos had been detained by state police, one's army application was denied because of his Juggalo tattoo, and one Juggalo was an active army corporal who fears involuntary discharge from the army; The Insane Clown Posse duo had a show canceled when the music venue canceled the event at the request of the local police department. The parties sought, among other things, removal of the gang designation associated with Juggalos.


Last week, Judge Robert H. Cleland granted the FBI and DOJ's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on standing grounds -- because the parties complained of actions taken by independent third parties. The court noted that the 2011 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 nation-wide gang trends." Quoting the Supreme Court's recent decision, he added that he was "reluctant to 'endorse standing theories that rest on speculation about decisions of independent actors.'"

On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a notice of appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. ACLU lawyer Michael Steinberg stated, "The only way to remedy this injustice for all innocent Juggalos is to start with the root of the problem -- the FBI's arbitrary and erroneous branding of hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members," reports Reuters.

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