Insane Clown Posse's fans rally against gang labelling

American rap group Insane Clown Posse's fans (above) protesting last Saturday in Washington against the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2011 decision to classify them as gang members. The group was founded in 1989 by duo Violent J (Joseph Bruce) and Sha
American rap group Insane Clown Posse's fans (above) protesting last Saturday in Washington against the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2011 decision to classify them as gang members. The group was founded in 1989 by duo Violent J (Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
American rap group Insane Clown Posse's fans protesting last Saturday in Washington against the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2011 decision to classify them as gang members. The group was founded in 1989 by duo Violent J (Joseph Bruce, above) and Shag
American rap group Insane Clown Posse's fans protesting last Saturday in Washington against the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2011 decision to classify them as gang members. The group was founded in 1989 by duo Violent J (Joseph Bruce, above) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler).PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON • Discrimination is not a laughing matter for these protest marchers.

Wearing piercings and horror make-up, about 1,000 fans of controversial American rap group Insane Clown Posse descended on Washington over the weekend, alleging they had been discriminated against since the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) labelled them as gang members in a 2011 report.

With its extravagantly dressed participants, many adorned with tattoos and piercings, the Juggalo March was an offbeat addition to the regular political rallies staged in the capital.

Assembling near Lincoln Memorial, the Juggalos, as they are known, spoke of the difficulties they had faced since the law enforcement agency's move - losing jobs, custody of their children and excessive police attention.

"We do our things. Live and let live man, I'm a regular citizen, I pay my taxes," said Mr Scott Creel, an imposing figure with a long beard and who was pierced from head to toe. He had travelled from the southern state of Arkansas.

Participants took to the stage to denounce the FBI's decision, interrupted by chants of "family" and rap performances.

"Some Juggalos may have been, as individuals, part of gangs, but they were not in a Juggalo gang," said another protester, Mr Rob Sinning from New Jersey.

He added: "We work hard, we clown hard."

The term Juggalo is derived from the lyrics of one of the band's songs.

Founded in Detroit in 1989 by duo Violent J (Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler), Insane Clown Posse perform a brand of hip-hop known as "horrorcore", which is influenced by supernatural themes and horror-movie imagery.

The band have sold millions of records despite a lack of exposure on national television or radio.

Fans are known for their esoteric behaviour, sometimes wearing clown make-up in homage to the band, as well as chains or tattoos featuring a silhouetted man.

Many profess a love for Faygo, a little-known soft drink that is also produced in Detroit.

In a 2011 report, the FBI classified Juggalos as a "loosely organised hybrid gang" - a gang with a nebulous structure and is mixed-gender and multi-ethnic.

The group is said to have a strong presence in the Mid-west, but the report noted it was expanding in New Mexico "because they are attracted to the tribal and cultural traditions of the Native Americans".

Like supporters of United States President Donald Trump, many come from lower-income families. Being followers of the group gives them a sense of belonging and purpose.

"These people come from broken homes, split families, poverty, discrimination and they found an outlet to come together," said Mr Scott Donihoo, who runs a website dedicated to the movement.

"We identify with this music because it literally saved our lives in one form or another."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Insane Clown Posse's fans rally against gang labelling'. Print Edition | Subscribe