The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, along with the music duo Insane Clown Posse (ICP), appealed a federal judge’s order dismissing the Juggalos’ case against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The lawsuit was originally filed in January on behalf of Juggalos, or fans of ICP, claiming that their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated when the U.S. government wrongly and arbitrarily classified the entire fan base as a “hybrid” criminal gang.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland dismissed the lawsuit claiming that ICP and its fans lack standing—the legal requirement that forces individuals to prove they were harmed before they can sue. In this case, the judge stated that the Juggalos suffered harm at the hands of local law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Army, not the FBI.
“The only way to remedy this injustice for all innocent Juggalos is to start with the root of the problem—the FBI’s arbitrary and erroneous branding of hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members,” said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan legal director. “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.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Juggalos and the two members of ICP and stems from a 2011 decision by the DOJ to include the fan group in the agency’s third National Gang Threat Assessment officially identifying Juggalos as a “hybrid gang.” As a result of this unjust designation, “individual Juggalos are suffering improper investigations, detentions and other denials of their personal rights at the hands of government officials” or denied employment.
“This is not the end—we’ll keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name,” said Joseph Bruce (aka Violent J), a member of ICP. “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.”
Juggalos are the self-identified fans of ICP. They often express their affinity for ICP by displaying the “hatchetman” logo and other ICP insignia on their clothing, jewelry, body art and bumper stickers. Juggalos often come together at concerts or their annual week-long summer gathering.
They consider themselves a “family” of people who love and help one another and enjoy one another’s company. Juggalos are not an organized fan club, but a group of people who bond over the music and a philosophy of life, much like “Deadheads” bonded around the Grateful Dead. The federal government estimates that there are more than a million Juggalos in the United States.
The ACLU of Michigan and ICP are asking the appeals court to overturn the judge’s order dismissing the case and to order the DOJ to remove the Juggalos from the government’s list of gangs so that the fans of ICP will no longer be unconstitutionally and unjustifiably singled out as targets for scrutiny and harassment by law enforcement authorities throughout the country. The lawsuit goes on to assert that the DOJ’s classification of the Juggalos as a gang is unconstitutionally vague and violates the Juggalos’ constitutional rights to association and speech.
The Juggalos are represented by ACLU of Michigan attorneys including Michael J. Steinberg, Dan Korobkin, Kary Moss and ACLU cooperating attorney Saura J. Sahu, Emily Palacios and James Boufides of the law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. The members of the Insane Clown Posse are represented by Howard Hertz and Elizabeth Thomson of the firm Hertz Schram and Farris F. Haddad of Farris F. Haddad & Associates, P.C.