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.” Many Juggalos proudly display ICP logos and symbols on their clothing, jewelry, bumper stickers, and as tattoos. Based on a few isolated criminal incidents involving Juggalos, the federal government 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. In 2014, Judge Robert Cleland dismissed our case on standing grounds, but in 2015 the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that Juggalos and ICP have suffered injury and therefore have standing to challenge the gang designation.
In 2016, Judge Cleland dismissed the case a second time, holding that the Juggalos did not suffer “legal consequences” and therefore could not challenge the designation under the Administrative Procedures Act. We appealed, but unfortunately in December 2017 the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case.
Although the Juggalos did not win in court, the case was very successful in other ways, including raising public awareness about the absurdity of the gang designation, causing the FBI to admit to the court that only a “small number” of Juggalos were engaged in criminal activity, and putting local law enforcement agencies on notice that they can be sued for targeting Juggalos.
(Parsons v. U.S. Department of Justice; ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorneys Saura Sahu, Emily Palacios and Ray Fylstra of Miller Canfield; co-counsel Howard Hertz and Farris Haddad.)