Juggalos are fans of violent music called horror core rap performed by the band, Insane Clown Posse. Fans paint their faces to look like clowns and get tattoos with the image of a man running with a hatchet. In recent years, self-identified Juggalos have been charged with criminal and gang activity, including but not limited to, the sale of illegal drugs, arson, robbery and murder.
In 2011 the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Gang Intelligence Center published a report that described Juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang” with membership “expanding into many U.S. communities.” In 2014, lawyers for the Insane Clown Posse joined individual Juggalos and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan to file a lawsuit against the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, saying the U.S. government had made an “unwarranted and unlawful decision” in classifying Juggalos as gang members. The suit asks the court to, among other things, set aside the NGIC’s Gang Intelligence Report of 2011.
The case, Parsons v U.S. DOJ, is still making its way through the courts. But what does the case represent for Juggalos? When does a fan base become a gang in the eyes of the law?
Juggalos was reported by Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle and edited by Annie Avilés, with sound design and production by Shani Aviram. Music from Insane Clown Posse (used with permission from Psychopathic Records) and Chris Zabriskie. Special thanks to Life of the Law‘s Advisory Scholar, Professor Naomi Mezey of Georgetown Law School for her production assistance.
- 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment
- Parsons v US DOJ Complaint
- “Culture, Crime, and Criminology” by Jeff Ferrell
This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by our listeners and by grants from the Open Society Foundation, the Law and Society Association, the Proteus Fund and the National Science Foundation.
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