The large, unkempt subculture that's emerged around the music of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse isn't for everyone. The elaborate costumes, obsession with Faygo-brand soda, and over-the-top lyrics of the band definitely make some people uncomfortable. But does being a "Juggalo," the term fans call themselves, mean you're a criminal?
According to the, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the answer is yes.
"Many Juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence," the agency wrote in its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report.
The federal treatment of their prompted Insane Clown Posse to sue the FBI with help from the Michigan chapter of the Americans for Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit has been thrown out twice and is still currently under appeal.
Insane Clown Posse was formed in 1989 by members including Joseph "Violent J" Bruce and Joseph William "Shaggy 2 Dope" Utsler (three other original members of the group have since left the band).
To try and bring attention to their cause, the band's self-owned label, Psychopathic Records, has decided to held a march on September 16 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It also set up a website where fans can tell their stories of how they have faced harassment and professional troubles for just being Juggalos.
The site also features an essay from Vice writer Mitchell Sunderland arguing that part of the reason that Insane Clown Posse receives more law enforcement scrutiny is that many of their fans are lower-income.
"I’ve heard stories about Juggalos getting pulled over for his bumper sticker of a hatchet man, the logo for ICP’s record label Psychopathic Records, and people losing jobs over their love for ICP," Sunderland argued.
He continued: "The attack on ICP is often an attack on what people view as symbols of white poverty. Many ICP fans call themselves “scrubs.” They grew up poor, like ICP. Violent J and Shaggy inverted symbols of poverty — Faygo, broken-down bikes, shitty clothes—and turned them into swagger. ICP helps people feel proud, and their affect has scared both the right and left."
Wearing black-and-white clown paint, ICP raps about murder, drugs and — surprise — God to an adoring flock of fans who don similar face paint and meet at massive festivals. While many — perhaps quite rightly — deride the quality and tone of ICP's music and the manners of their fans, the act has nonetheless sold millions of albums and millions of tickets, no mean feat.