Insane Clown Posse Sues U.S. Government for Treating Fans as Gang Members

Friday, January 10, 2014
Insane Clown Posse, Joseph Utsler and Joseph Bruce (photo: John Carucci, AP)

Insane Clown Posse, a rap duo known for its makeup and dark lyrics, is suing the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for classifying its fans as gang members, leading to law enforcement unfairly targeting them.


Numerous cases have been documented of police stopping and harassing the group’s fans, known as Juggalos, simply because of their affiliation with Insane Clown Posse, the lawsuit contends.


Plaintiffs include Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, the founders of Insane Clown Posse who perform as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, as well as four Juggalos.


They claim the FBI and Justice officials made the “unwarranted and unlawful decision” to classify fans as criminal gang members, which resulted in their harassment by law enforcement and led to their “significant harm.”


Among the plaintiffs who were harassed, according to the complaint, is an Army corporal who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq, who faces possible discharge due to the “Juggalo” tattoo he has; a semi-truck driver who was stopped, searched and detained by a trooper who spotted the group logo on his vehicle; and a fellow who was refused enlistment in the Army unless he removed or covered his tattoo.


“I’m a peaceful person and I try to live my life right,” plaintiff  Brandon Bradley of Sacramento, California,  told The New York Times. He said that his participation in the lawsuit was in support of “people like me who are being discriminated against, just because of the music we listen to.”


In 2011, the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center published a report that described Juggalos as “a loosely organized hybrid gang” whose members were “expanding into many U.S. communities.”


Evidence cited by the FBI to justify the classification included one incident in which “two suspected Juggalo associates were charged with beating and robbing an elderly homeless man,” and another in which “a suspected Juggalo member” shot and wounded two other people.


“Among the supporters of almost any group—whether it be a band, sports team, university, political organization or religion—there will be some people who violate the law,” the plaintiffs say. “However, it is wrong to designate the entire group of supporters as a criminal gang based on the acts of a few. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here.”


Saura Sahu, an attorney assisting the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which is helping the group with its lawsuit, told Rolling Stone the FBI’s action led to fewer people attending Insane Clown Posse concerts and listening to their music.


“We don't fit in anywhere,” Bruce told the music magazine. “And when people don't understand you, people fear you. All we're trying to do is be like the Stephen King of music. We like to tell horror stories.”


Bruce and Utsler previously sued the FBI after it refused their Freedom of Information Act request to turn over all information collected on the band. That case is still pending in court.


Sahu told Rolling Stone that “none of the information revealed showed any significant link between any significant percentage of the Juggalos and the kind of criminal behaviors that the Department of Justice is supposed to be targeting through these gang initiatives.”


“We’re not a gang, we’re a family,” Utsler told the Times. “We’re a diverse group of men and women, united by our love of music and nothing more. We’re not a threat, a public menace or a danger to society.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Insane Clown Posse Defends Fans, With F.B.I. Lawsuit (by Dave Iztkoff, New York Times)

Insane Clown Posse Sue FBI Over Juggalos' Gang Classification (by Patrick Flanary, Rolling Stone)

Juggalos Rejoice! ICP and Psychopathic Officially File Lawsuit Against FBI (Insane Clown Posse)


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