Juggalos rally, march in Washington against ‘gang’ label

Detroit Free Press

WASHINGTON — Collecting around a stage set up at the Lincoln Memorial, several hundred Juggalos — fans of the Detroit-based hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse — turned out Saturday to listen to music and bring attention to what they say is an unfair gang label from the FBI that has cost some of their face-painted friends and family their jobs, led to harassment by authorities.

“You can’t go out to malls (in face paint). … You can’t go out showing that you are a Juggalo,” said Tyler Dulac, 22, of Mason, Michigan. He said that while he hasn’t been targeted, he knows of a colleague who was harassed in public when he was in Juggalo attire.

Other Juggalos (and Juggalettes, as their female members are known) told stories of losing jobs, of being stopped by police, of being threatened with having their children taken away, all because of their musical preferences and face-painting.

A woman from Manassas, Virginia, said she lost her job as a probation-parole officer “because of the type of music I listen to.”

“If horrorcore is so scary, why isn’t Stephen King in jail?” Jessica Bonometti asked from the stage before the Reflecting Pool as the event began.

For the uninitiated, the name Juggalos comes from an ICP song, “The Juggla” and refers to anyone who is a rabid fan of the Detroit-based duo known for the violent or offensive imagery in its songs, which its fans seem to understand is more for comic effect than anything else.

The Juggalos’ problems stem from a 2011 report from the FBI that classified them as a “hybrid gang” citing reports of petty crime and that some in a few states were stepping up into more organized efforts.

Later gang threat assessments didn’t include the label but the Juggalos say the damage was done. They’ve been trying to force the FBI to rescind it publicly since — and that’s why they came to Washington on Saturday for a rally, march and concert to be capped off with a set by ICP.

Juggalos say a few bad members of a family thousands of members strong shouldn’t tarnish all of them.

Shawn Rosen, 34, a Wal-Mart employee in Apache Junction, Arizona, said he was visiting a fair in Oregon some years ago when a police officer pulled him aside and started frisking him for drugs.

“I don’t even do drugs,” Rosen said.

Josh Metroff, a 30-year-old unemployed chef from Toledo, put it even more simply: He hasn’t been discriminated against himself but came because, “I’m not a gang member.”

Last year, a judge dismissed the Juggalos’ case against the Justice Department but several members, along with the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan, are appealing to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. They say while Juggalos “express their shared identity by displaying distinctive tattoos, art, clothing” and that “some paint their faces like clowns,” their purposes “do not include engaging in criminal activity.”

That’s not to say Juggalos haven’t been involved in criminal acts. One in Wisconsin involved a woman’s finger being chopped off. Another involved two men accused of beating and stomping another man in Maryland. But the ACLU’s argument says that any large fan base is going to have a number of criminals in it.

“(Like) other musical fan bases, the vast majority of Juggalos have nothing to do with criminal activity,” the most recent legal brief said, “let alone organized crime.”

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