Fans of the rap group, Insane Clown Posse — better known as "Juggalos" — are descending on Washington D.C. today to protest an insane federal government policy that labeled Juggalos a "gang" and severely curtained their First Amendment rights, but you'd never know that from the media coverage.
According to everyone from The AV Club to NPR, the Juggalos, who dress like horror clowns, complete with black and white face paint, are there to oppose the "Mother of All Rallies," a pro-Trump event taking place on the National Mall. Heck, Antifa is so excited about the Juggalos showing up, they've been offering Juggalo March attendees free, cold Faygo soda (a Detroit-regional brand of generic soft drinks that has become an iconic part of Juggalo concerts and gatherings).
But while some Juggalos certainly see opposing (or, for that matter, joining) the Trump rally a side benefit (Juggalos are, generally speaking, pretty diverse in their politics — there are conservative and liberal Juggalos, LGBTQ Juggalos, feminist and anti-feminist Juggalos) but today, they're united in marching for a very serious reason — and one that should entice more than a handful of conservatives to join the FA-MI-LY.
Juggalos, who, by and large, come from the margins of society — many are the very white, working class kids struggling to find work, and to avoid falling prey to the opiate crisis that's sweeping the Rust Belt and middle America — consider themselves something of a "family;" they see the Juggalo fandom as a place to belong. They even have a family mascot, the "Hatchet Man," who appears on cars, in tattoos, and on tee shirts across the country.
But after a few unrelated incidents — where aggressors just happened to be Juggalos — in 2011, the FBI labeled the Juggalo family an "organized crime syndicate" in their National Gang Threat Assessment. At first ICP just laughed it off, after all, if Juggalos were by and large misunderstood by their friends, neighbors and family members, it was only a matter of time before the federal government made their "outsider" status permanent.
But it turns out that the NGTA has widespread implications. It instructs law enforcement on how to recognize and target gang members; its a sort-of license to profile certain individuals based on the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, and the tattoos they get, among other identifying factors. Suddenly, the "Hatchet Man" gave law enforcement license to stop and frisk Juggalos, because of their NGTA designation. Juggalo gatherings became gang meetings, and schools and other public places started to ban ICP and Hatchetman clothing.
According to a list of verified testimonials available on the Juggalo March website (and corroborated by the Michigan ACLU), individuals were turned away from the armed forces for having Hatchetman tattoos, kids were suspended from school for sporting ICP merchandise, and at least one woman lost custody of her child because the kid's father brought up her Juggalo affiliation in court. One Juggalo found himself repeatedly detained by police who "translated his answers into gang-related terms" and then entered him and his answers "into a gang information database that is part of or feeds information into the gang information database.”
Juggalos aren't racist (ICP's music actually features some very strong anti-racist themes). They certainly aren't violent. Even the FBI in their Juggalo description notes that, as a whole, Juggalos aren't really a problem — any more than Swifties (what fans of Taylor Swift call themelves). The NGTA reads: "most crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism," only "a small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets.”
Experts say the Juggalos are very unfairly maligned. And that the FBI wouldn't dare make the same designation about any other group of fans — aside from the lower-class whites who form up most of the Juggalo posse.
ICP in concert with the Michigan ACLU filed a lawsuit against the FBI in 2011, alleging that the NGTA designation infringed on the Juggalos' First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. The lawsuit turned the would-be killer clown rappers into free speech heroes in an effort to defend their fans. "[If] Juggalos are being fucked with, we got to do something about it," Violent J, one half of ICP told Reason Magazine. "If that ties us into some First Amendment movement, whatever, we're First Amendment warriors. I don't know.
The suits, though, have been repeatedly dismissed in court, largely because the FBI claims that they've since dropped Juggalos off their National Gang Threat Assessment. But here's the problem: the FBI has never come out and said that their Juggalo designation was wrong, and so law enforcement, across the country, continue to use the 2011 NGTA as a guide in rooting out gang members using their Hatchetman tattoos and ICP tee shirts.
Juggalos created the Juggalo March on Washington because it's probably the last chance they have to push back on an incredible government overreach — and it could actually work. While most marches are just collective temper tantrums that lead to few policy changes, but lots of garbage on the National Mall, the Juggalo demonstration is designed to pressure the FBI into issuing some sort of correction, so that the government can stop unconstitutionally targeting them for merely liking a band.
It's also an opportunity to show what happens when a group people don't typically give a second thought to are unfairly targeted by law enforcement. There has been plenty of talk of discrimination and police overreach over the last several years, and rightly so — but this is a concrete example of the government going way too far, and widespread discrimination happening as a result.