Several U.S. Army recruits, who also happen to be fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse, are suing the Federal Bureau of Investigations over the classification of the “Juggalo” fan base as a “hybrid gang.”
Sgt. Robert Hellin, who has multiple Juggalo tattoos, claims that his musical taste “places him in imminent danger of suffering discipline or discharge from the military.”
Another plaintiff, Scott Gandy, claims that he was unable to join the Army because of his love of Insane Clown Posse.
ICP rappers Joseph “Violent J” Bruce and Joseph “Shaggy 2 Dope” Utsler are also plaintiffs in this case, which is being backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
The issue at hand is whether an FBI report from 2011, “National Gang Threat Assessment: Emerging Trends,” unfairly characterizes Juggalos as criminals.
“The Juggalos, a loosely-organized hybrid gang, are rapidly expanding into many U.S. communities. Although only recognized as a gang in four states, many Juggalo subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence,” the FBI report said.
When the rap duo first filed the lawsuit, they issued a statement condemning the FBI’s characterization of their fan base.
“There has never been—and never will be—a music fan base quite like the Juggalos,” the statement read. “While it is easy to fear what one does not understand, discrimination and bigotry against any group of people is plain wrong and un-American.”
“The Juggalos are fighting for the basic American right to freely express who they are, to gather and share their appreciation of music, and to discuss issues that are important to them without fear of being targeted and harassed by police,” ACLU Michigan attorney Michael J. Steinberg said in a statement of his own.
Juggalo supporters argue that the group itself is merely a music appreciation group, not a gang engaged in criminal activity.
“There is no data to support a broad-ranging finding that this group is engaged in criminal activity, because they’re not. Their primary purpose is to be music fans, and the vast majority are law-abiding people,” Saura Sahu, a lawyer defending the plaintiffs, said.
She also characterized Army rules about Juggalo recruits “erroneous blacklisting.”
The FBI, however, argued that they never characterized all Juggalos as gang members.
“FBI nowhere stated that all Juggalos are criminals, or all Juggalos are gang members,” Justice Department lawyer Lindsay Powell said in court.