The Insane Clown Posse teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming the two agencies violated the free speech rights of Juggalos -- what Insane Clown Posse fans are called -- by classifying them as gang members.
What kind of relief is the hip hop duo seeking?
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Juggalos and Insane Clown Posse singers Joseph Utsler and Joseph Bruce, who perform as Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, reports Reuters.
The suit refers to a 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, in which the Justice Department described Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang". The report examined the crimes committed by a small number of Juggalos who were engaged in gang-like criminal activity.
In the complaint, the Insane Clown Posse essentially argues that a rotten few don't spoil the bunch. They say the vast majority of Juggalos are peaceful music lovers who are unfairly being labeled gang members based on the criminal acts of a few fans.
The lawsuit asks the court to set aside the findings of the 2011 F.B.I. gang assessment, order the elimination of "criminal intelligence information" on Juggalos from government and law-enforcement databases and prohibit the gathering of further information without "sufficient facts" of a "definable criminal activity or enterprise."
What's In a Name?
The problem with a haphazard gang classification is that it makes an entire group of individuals guilty by association. Such a label can have a profound impact on a "member" both personally and professionally. For Juggalos, the classification has led to discrimination, profiling, and harassment.
A number of Juggalos claim they are regularly stopped and questioned by law enforcement when they paint their faces to look like clowns and display a logo of a hatchet man through their tattoos, clothes, or jewelry. Many fans also claim they've been denied employment because of the classification.
Being labeled a gang member can also result in much harsher penalties for certain crimes, according to the Justice Department's National Gang Center.
Under the First Amendment, we have a right to associate with whom we want and generally express ourselves the way we want. The question now is whether the Justice Department and FBI violated ICP fans' rights to be Juggalos, associate with Juggalos, and express their identity as Juggalos by displaying the band's symbols.