Members of the Michigan-based Insane Clown Posse paint their
faces to look like clowns and are known for their
"controversial, rebellious and provocative" music that often
uses harsh themes and language, according to the lawsuit, which
was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Many of the duo's estimated 1 million fans, known as Juggalos,
also paint their faces to look like clowns and display a logo of
a hatchet man on their clothes and jewelry, according to the
"Branding hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members
based on the acts of a few individuals defies logic and violates
our most cherished of constitutional rights," Michael Steinberg,
ACLU's legal director in Michigan, said in a statement.
The gang designation has caused the Juggalos "significant harm,
including repeated police harassment and denial of employment,"
according to the complaint.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Juggalos and Insane
Clown Posse singers Joseph Utsler and Joseph Bruce, who go by
the names Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, respectively. It accuses
the Justice Department and FBI of violating the fan's First
Amendment rights and collecting information on the group without
suspicion of criminal activity.
The suit refers to a 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, in
which the Justice Department said Juggalos were a loosely
organized hybrid gang.
The government's assessment showed a photo of what appears to be
a female Juggalo, with a painted clown face, aiming a pistol.
The report said most crimes committed by Juggalos were sporadic
and involved assault, drugs, theft and vandalism.
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A small number of Juggalos were forming more organized
subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity, such
as felony assaults, thefts, robberies and drug sales, the
One self-identified Juggalo, Brandon Bradley, 20, "has on
numerous occasions been stopped and detained by law enforcement
officers in California," the ACLU said in a statement. "Each
time, the officer has wrongly accused Brandon of being in a gang
and has interrogated him about being a Juggalo and his
affiliated tattoos and clothing. Another client, Scott Gandy,
was told he would not be accepted in the Army because his ICP
tattoo was a gang symbol."
The Insane Clown Posse, whose website shows photos of Utsler and
Bruce in black-and-white-painted clown faces and sporting
tattoos on their hands and forearms, said in a statement posted
on their website that its legal counsel and the ACLU "think that
the discrimination, profiling and harassment that Juggalos have
been facing over the last few years in (sic) flat out WRONG and
The Justice Department in Detroit was not immediately available
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien;
editing by Leslie Adler)
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