The Herald of Everett, Washington
Customer service  |  Subscribe   |   Log in or sign up   |   Advertising information   |   Contact us
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus The Daily Herald on Linked In HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up  Green editions icon Green editions
John McCartney and Herald staff | jmccartney@heraldnet.com
Published: Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 5:18 p.m.

Insane Clown Posse sues over gang label

  • Joseph Bruce aka Violent J, left, and Joseph Utsler aka Shaggy 2 Dope, members of the Insane Clown Posse, talk to the media in Detroit on Wednesday.

    AP

    Joseph Bruce aka Violent J, left, and Joseph Utsler aka Shaggy 2 Dope, members of the Insane Clown Posse, talk to the media in Detroit on Wednesday.

DETROIT — The Insane Clown Posse sued the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday over a 2011 FBI report that describes the rap-metal duo's devoted fans, the Juggalos, as a dangerous gang, saying the designation has tarnished reputations and hurt business.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in Detroit federal court on behalf of the group's two members, Joseph Bruce, or Violent J, and Joseph Utsler, or Shaggy 2 Dope. It also names four fans as plaintiffs.

The FBI report on criminal gangs labeled the Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang." It said those who identify as Juggalos have committed assaults and vandalism, and a "small number" of them have engaged in more serious crimes.

The lawsuit contends that the gang designation violates free speech and due process rights.

"It is a quintessential civil liberties case challenging government abuse," said Michael Steinberg, the legal director of ACLU Michigan.

At a news conference in Detroit, Bruce, 41, and Utsler, 39, wore their trademark face paint. The Detroit-area pair said Juggalos are like a family, not a gang, and they want their fans purged from the report.

"Our merchandise sales are just about cut in half. ... You don't see the stickers in the back windows anymore because everyone's afraid to wave the flag in their car," Bruce said. "They're afraid they're going to get pulled over and harassed."

He said law enforcers "just fear what they don't understand."

Juggalos have lost custody of children, lost jobs and been denied housing because they're fans, Bruce said.

Saura Sahu, an attorney for the group, called the government's depiction of the Juggalos absurd.

"What would it be like if the Department of Justice decided to brand all Deadheads, not just as criminals but as criminal gang members because some of them used or even sold drugs?" Sahu said, referring to fans of The Grateful Dead. "I think we would all think that's ridiculous."

Scott Gandy, 28, of Concord, N.C., is one of the four fans who are suing. He said he wanted to join the Army, but was told by a sergeant that he couldn't apply without removing or covering Insane Clown Posse tattoos. He said he spent hundreds of dollars for the painful procedure and was rejected by the Army anyway.

Brandon Bradley, 20, of Sacramento, Calif., said he has been stopped by police and photographed because of his tattoos and attire, including a necklace with a man running with a hatchet. It is an Insane Clown Posse symbol.

"I'm proud to wear my Juggalo tattoos since they represent the love I have toward the Juggalo family ... and the message that everyone deserves to be accepted," Bradley told reporters.

In 2012, lawyers for Insane Clown Posse sued the government to get records to understand how the decision was made to include Juggalos in the gang report. They have received more than 100 pages, but most are newspaper articles about arrests. The FBI has refused to release other documents, citing exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act for sensitive material.

Story tags » MusicGangs

Subscribe to Daily headlines
See sample | Privacy policy

Most recent Off the Wire posts

digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...
» More local news
HeraldNet Classifieds

HeraldNet highlights

Change the world
Change the world: Gates visitor center encourages passionate giving
Farmers markets guide
Farmers markets guide: The season is under way; here's where to buy fresh food
Crow magnum
Crow magnum: As thousands darken the sky, researchers descend on Bothell
A revolution for its time
A revolution for its time: Boeing 247 makes final flight to Seattle museum (gallery, video)