FBI Targets Fans of Popular Hip-Hop Group For Harassment

The ACLU sues the Feds for labeling fans of Insane Clown Posse a "gang."

A man in Juggalo face paint.
Photo Credit: Jake Metcalf/Wikimedia Commons

Their devoted fans called Juggalos have been labeled a “gang” by the federal government and harassed by the police.  A concert was canceled because of the label.  Now, the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In early January, the band, along with their lawyers, made the lawsuit announcement, saying that the government had classified their fans as a gang for unwarranted reasons. The band and four of their fans are plaintiffs.

The roots of the lawsuit date back to 2011, when the FBI’s National Intelligence Center issued a report saying that Juggalos are “a loosely organized hybrid gang” that were creeping into communities around the U.S.  The report’s justification for the label was that two alleged Juggalo “associates” beat and robbed a homeless man, and that another Juggalo had shot and wounded two people.

The lawsuit asks that the FBI set aside the 2011 report’s findings, expunge information on the ICP and Juggalos from federal government databases and halt the gathering of intelligence on them without valid facts.

One of the plaintiffs is a California man named Brandon Bradley, who told reporters at the press conference where the suit was announced that he had been harassed by the police because of his tattoos and clothing.  The Detroit-based Metro Times reported that Bradley was “pulled over for jaywalking and forced to pose for multiple photographs of his face, clothes and tattoos.”

Another plaintiff in the lawsuit claims that he was denied enlistment into the Army unless he removed his Juggalo tattoos. Scott Gandy says an Army recruiter informed him that the tattoo markings were "gang-related." Even after Gandy obscured his tattoos with other tattoos, he was still denied enlistment. 

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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