Insane Clown Posse: why two clown rappers are suing the FBI

Insane Clown Posse

Fans of the Insane Clown Posse claim they have been harassed by police after FBI called them a 'gang'

LAST UPDATED AT 15:32 ON Wed 25 Jun 2014

A judge in Detroit has been asked to dismiss a case in which two "horrorcore" rappers who wear clown make-up are suing the FBI for classifying their fans as a gang. The rap duo, Insane Clown Posse, filed the suit against the bureau earlier this year, claiming that their fans – known as juggalos – were being unfairly harassed by police...

Who is Insane Clown Posse?

Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, also known as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, formed Insane Clown Posse (ICP) more than 20 years ago. Despite their aggressive lyrics and fearsome reputation, they astounded their fans a few years ago by coming out as a Christian group, claiming they had been pretending to be brutal and sadistic to trick their fans into believing in God. They subsequently released a song called Miracles, listing God's wonders such as "long-neck giraffes" and "rain", but also railing against the concept of science. Lyrics included: "F***ing magnets, how do they work?" In a list of the 50 worst artists in music history, Blender magazine named ICP the worst of all.

Who are the juggalos?

ICP fans have called themselves juggalos for more than two decades, often seen wearing face-paint, being sprayed with fizzy drinks at ICP gigs and brandishing a heavy scepticism of magnets. The group is named after an ICP song, The Juggla.

Why have they been classified as a gang?

Juggalos were officially classified as a "loosely-organised hybrid gang" in the FBI's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. The document stated that "many juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behaviour and engage in criminal activity and violence", from simple assault, drug use and vandalism to thefts, robbery and drug sales. In January 2011, a suspected juggalo member shot and wounded a couple in Washington. The previous year, two suspected juggalos were charged with beating and robbing an elderly homeless man.

Why are Insane Clown Posse unhappy about this?

Bruce and Utsler claim that the classification is "unwarranted and unlawful" and has led to their fans being harassed by police, reports The Guardian. Some fans claim to have lost custody of children, jobs and housing simply because they enjoy the music of the rap duo. They are backed in the suit by the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "Branding hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members based on the acts of a few individuals defies logic and violates our most cherished of constitutional rights," says their attorney.

What is the FBI's response?

The FBI wants the case dismissed on the grounds that ICP should have no right to sue. Lawyers for the federal government argue that the FBI should not be held responsible for how local police have interpreted its report on gangs. Amy Powell, representing the FBI, told the court in Detroit: "There is no general right of protection to a social association," referring to the first amendment right to freedom of expression, which ICP claimed protected their fans. The bureau also argues that it did not label all juggalos as members of a criminal gang, only a "subset" of them. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.