The Juggalos Are Not a Gang

September 17, 2015

In 2014 the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI for stigmatizing all fans of a popular hip hop and rap group as a “gang.” 

Dedicated fans of the music group Insane Clown Posse (ICP) refer to themselves as “Juggalos,” much like dedicated fans of the Grateful Dead are known as “Deadheads.”  At concerts and week-long gatherings during the summer, Juggalos from all over the country come together to bond over their shared interest in ICP’s music and a nonconformist counter-culture that has developed around this group.  Many Juggalos also proudly display ICP logos and symbols on their clothing, jewelry, bumper stickers, and as tattoos. 

Based on a few criminal incidents involving Juggalos, the federal government has officially designated the Juggalos as a “gang.”  As a result, completely innocent Juggalos who are not involved in criminal activity are being harassed by police, denied employment, and otherwise stigmatized because of the clothing and tattoos that they use to identify themselves. 

Among the supporters of almost any group—whether it be a band, sports team, university, political organization, or religion—there will always be some people who violate the law.  But that does not mean the government can designate the entire group as a criminal enterprise. 

In June 2014 Judge Robert Cleland dismissed our case on standing grounds, but in September 2015 the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that Juggalos and ICP have standing to challenge the gang designation.  The case is now back before Judge Cleland on the FBI’s motion to dismiss the case on alternative grounds. 

(Parsons v. U.S. Department of Justice; ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorneys Saura Sahu, Emily Palacios, Ray Fylstra and James Boufides of Miller Canfield; Howard Hertz and Farris Haddad.)

To view the full 2014-2015 Legal Docket, click here.

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