Juggalos aren’t a gang, ok?

Congratulations, Juggalos. You and your ilk cannot be legally classified as a gang.

There’s a court case saying as much.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a case filed by the FBI (really) that tried to get fans of the Insane Clown Posse legally identified as a gang. The Juggalos claimed this designation was unfair and illegal and allowed local law enforcement across the United States to treat them as a threat to public peace whenever they wanted to get together.

The Juggalos, with the ACLU, claimed this ignoble distinction was a violation of the First Amendment rights of both individual members and the group as a whole.

According to the case, one member was pulled over because a State Trooper thought a symbol on his van—a “hatchetman logo” often used by the band – indicated a gang affiliation. The trooper asked the man if he had any weapons on his person or in the vehicle; the man said, truthfully, he did not.

“The state trooper continued to search the truck and interrogate (the fan) for about an hour, delaying (the fan’s) time-sensitive hauling work. During the search, the state trooper did not find any weapons or contraband,” and as a result the fan was not given a ticket.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice threw up their hands and claimed innocence. It wasn’t their fault they considered the actions of a bunch of music aficionados to be aggressive and worthy of additional surveillance, writes Tim Cushing at Tech Crunch.

An attorney for the Justice Department, Amy Powell, said in the suit that the group (ICP) and the Juggalos can’t sue for defamation or violation of their First Amendment rights and that the DoJ is not responsible for how local law enforcement agencies use the 2011 national report on gangs in which the Juggalos are so classified.

“If so, gang reports are a waste of time and money,” Cushing says. “If law enforcement isn’t supposed to take guidance from the DoJ to heart, there’s really no point in the agency issuing any. It sounds exactly like the excuse the FBI deployed when questioned by the FCC about non-disclosure agreements the feds made local law enforcement sign before acquiring a Stingray device. The FBI said it was shocked to hear local cops and prosecutors were following the terms of the NDA they had signed.”

On the other hand, the FBI’s other plan of attack is to stop the case from going to a different court.

The decision indicates the court agrees, saying, in part, the FBI’s second motion to dismiss argues that “the Juggalo gang designation was not reviewable because it was not a final agency action and was committed to agency discretion by law. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that the Juggalo gang distinction was not a final agency action and, even if it was, it was committed to agency discretion by law.”

That feels a little like doublespeak, right?

In other words, if police decided to treat Juggalos like members of a gang, that’s on the police departments. It’s their responsibility, not the federal agencies.

The long-running battle between the Juggalos and the feds stretches back at least 2011. The Juggalos sued the FBI in 2014 with the ACLU’s help. The case was dismissed but reinstated in 2015.

Last fall, ICP and the Juggalos gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC, carrying signs reading, among others, “Don’t Shoot/I’m Just A Music Fan with a Really Big Family” and “The FBI Listens to Nickelback.”

As Rolling Stone noted at the time, “Never before has the U.S. government targeted a fan base of an artist or music genre, and labeled anyone associated with it as part of an organized gang.

Violent J, one half of ICP, had this suggestion for the DoJ, FBI and anyone else looking to label his fans: “You wanna call us something, call us a family, because a lot of us don’t have a family and all we’ve got is each other,” he told Rolling Stone. “This shit is real for us, man.”

As another fan, Amie Puterbaugh, told the Washington Post, “It’s like labeling Deadheads a gang. It’s like labeling Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters a gang. If we don’t stand up from our First Amendment rights, who is next?”

Who’s next, indeed.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

One thought on “Juggalos aren’t a gang, ok?

  • January 5, 2018 at 11:34 am

    If the Jugaloos are a gang…then why is the KISS Army considered not a military platoon, with the apparent Knights In Satan’s Service leading them into acts of war?


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