The members of Michigan rap-rock group Insane Clown Posse sued the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday, for what the group members allege is an unfair characterization of “Juggalos” — the group’s dedicated fans — as a criminal gang.
According to the New York Times, the band’s lawsuit alleges that the classification of fans has led to an increased number of arrests and “significant harm” to the community and now the band would like it to stop.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit by the band’s attorneys and representatives of the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union. The Timesreported that, “Plaintiffs include the Insane Clown Posse founders Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, who perform under the stage names Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, and whose fans call themselves Juggalos.”
The suit also included the names of four fans of the group who said they were subjected to hostile and harassing behaviors by police because of their association with the group.
Juggalos are known for their fierce loyalty to the band and their willingness to travel widely to see the band in concert. The group also has an annual gathering of fans called the Gathering of the Juggalos, a weekend of camping and outdoor live music.
One fan named as a plaintiff in the suit is Brandon Bradley, who gave a press conference Wednesday in Detroit.
“I’m a peaceful person and I try to live my life right,” he said, but because of his clothes, tattoos and Insane Clown Posse paraphernalia, he is routinely harassed by police.
The lawsuit stems from a 2011 FBI report produced by the National Gang Intelligence Center, which called Juggalos “a loosely organized hybrid gang” with members in “many U.S. communities.”
The report detailed a pair of crimes committed by people who identified as Juggalos and showed a photo of a woman wearing the band’s trademark black and white face paint and pointing a gun at the camera.
The suit asks the court to set aside the findings of the 2011 report and asks that government agencies destroy “criminal intelligence information” they have gathered about the Juggalos and also that all government agencies cease spying on members of the group’s fan base unless the court can produce hard evidence of “definable criminal activity or enterprise.”
In court, Mr. Utsler said of the band and its followers, “We’re not a gang, we’re a family. We’re a diverse group of men and women, united by our love of music and nothing more. We’re not a threat, a public menace or a danger to society.”
Watch video of ICP’s press conference about the suit, embedded below:
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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