Gang Label for ICP's Juggalos Faces Appeal
(CN) - Insane Clown Posse wants the 6th Circuit to revive newly dismissed claims over the FBI's categorization of the hip-hop duo's fans as a "hybrid gang."
The Detroit-based group's members, Joseph Bruce aka Shaggy 2 Dope and Joseph Utsler aka Violent J, filed the federal complaint against the Department of Justice and the FBI this past January in Detroit.
Four so-called Juggalos, a nickname for ICP fans, joined as co-plaintiffs.
They complained that the FBI's National Gang Threat Assessment report in 2011 described the Juggalos as "a loosely organized hybrid gang," causing "real harm to ordinary Juggalos from coast to coast."
"State and local police routinely stop, detain, interrogate, photograph and document people like plaintiffs, who do not have any connections to gangs, because they have exercised their First Amendment rights to express their identity as Juggalos by displaying Juggalo symbols," the complaint said. "Other Juggalos, including plaintiff Scott Gandy, have been denied consideration for employment because of the gang designation. The designation has a chilling effect on Juggalos' ability to express themselves and to associate with one another."
In a 2012 complaint that the band filed under the Freedom of Information Act, they noted that the FBI had accused their band of engaging in "sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism."
The FBI report described how a suspected Juggalo shot a Washington couple in January 2011, and the January 2010 indictment of two Juggalo associates in the beating and robbing a homeless man.
U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland dismissed the 2014 complaint on June 30, finding that neither the performers nor the juggalos have standing.
Five of the six plaintiffs complained of harassment by third-party law enforcement, not the defendant DOJ or FBI. In one case, a Tennessee state trooper questioned a plaintiff regarding the ICP "hatchetman" symbol on his truck. In another, police on Citrus Heights and Sacremento, Calif., questioned another plaintiff about his Juggalo tattoos and merchandise.
"These allegations concern local law enforcement authorities in two different states, each of which made an independent decision to detain and question plaintiffs," Cleland wrote. "There is no indication that either the FBI or DOJ directed state police to detain and question either subject."
The Juggalos also failed to link the FBI's report with the Army's denial of an application by plaintiff Gandy because of his ICP tattoos.
"Again, there is no indication that either defendant participated in any of these decisions," the ruling states. "Even assuming arguendo that the Army denied Gandy's application because of his Juggalo tattoos, the court notes that the Army utilizes detailed regulations which govern acceptable grooming standards for service members, including the display of any tattoos."
Compelling retraction of the report would not necessarily abate alleged harassment by non-party law enforcement, the court found.
"As defendants argue, there are a multitude of state agencies and media reports that have described Juggalo gang activity long prior to the 2011 [NGTA] and would continue to do so regardless of the outcome of this action," the opinion states. "The court finds that it is 'merely speculative' to assert that plaintiffs' alleged injury would be redressed by a decision in their favor."
The American Civil Liberties Union appealed the dismissal of ICP's case Tuesday.
ACLU of Michigan legal director Michael Steinberg said "there is no doubt that the FBI created this problem and the solution begins there as well."
"Otherwise, we'll be playing whack-o-mole to stop local law enforcement agencies from discriminating against our clients, when the agencies are just following the FBI's lead," he said in a statement.
Bruce said the plaintiffs will "keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name."
"There has never been - and will never be - a music fan base quite like Juggalos, and while it is easy to fear what one does not understand, discrimination and bigotry against any group of people is just plain wrong and un-American," he said.