July 15, 2014 by The Zemanifesto
Juggalo Justice (Denied)
It’s pretty easy to make fun of the lawsuit filed against the FBI by rap duo Insane Clown Posse and the ACLU of Michigan, and far be it from me to pass up such sweet low-hanging fruit.
Still, there is a legal concept worth exploring at the heart of the case, which was dismissed by a judge and is now in the appeal phase; how law enforcement defines a “gang” and decides who qualifies as a “gang member.”
[WARNING: Many links to caliope music/NSFW lyrics ahead]
What Is A Juggalo?
You could ask ICP what a juggalo is, but chances are you won’t really appreciate their answer. Generally speaking, juggalos are devout fans of ICP and their affiliate artists who take their love of the music to the next level.
Sometimes this love is expressed through face paint, tattoos and clothing, while other times it manifests in less pleasant ways like baby funerals.
These are some juggalos gathered from teh webz:
Who Says They’re A Gang?
The FBI classified juggalos as a “hybrid gang” in their 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. From the FBI:
The Juggalos, a loosely organized hybrid gang, are rapidly expanding into many US communities. Although recognized as a gang in only four states, many Juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence. Law enforcement officials in at least 21 states have identified criminal Juggalo sub-sets, according to National Gang Information Center reporting.
The lawsuit against the FBI claims “individual Juggalos are suffering improper investigations, detentions and other denials of their personal rights at the hands of government officials” as a result of the report.
The impact of the designation ranges from getting kicked out of Walmart to having “gang enhancements” applied to a criminal charge, which can result in a longer prison sentence. And if a person does end up in a prison that considers juggalos a “security threat group,” the result can be time in solitary confinement.
Apparently it’s gotten bad enough that ICP released some educational literature explaining that juggalos are a “family,” not a gang. From the pamphlet:
We are not a threat to society and have no interest to commit crimes or disrupt society in any way. In fact, much like you, we oppose those who would conduct such activities.
Right. ICP has “no interest to commit crimes,” I mean, apart from mugging old ladies and eating dead bodies and murdering rednecks, or school teachers or just… you know, just murdering so many people.
Then again, if we’re going to classify music artists and fans as dangerous criminals based on song lyrics, there’s a string of terrifyingly brutal murders that started in Buffalo, New York back in 1988 somebody should probably look into:
Of course it could be that nobody in the FBI’s gang profiling unit can understand what the fuck Chris Barnes is saying.
People from Black and Latino communities have dealt with the legal and bureaucratic nightmares stemming from gang validation for years. “Gang injunctions” — court orders that place stringent restrictions on the activity and associations of those identified as gang members — can limit access to housing and employment and have been characterized as racist by many reform advocates.
From a report by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children:
Police all over California and the nation are using “gang” injunctions as a rationale for racial profiling and to criminalize young people of color… Gang injunctions are civil court orders allow police to arrest a person using a lower legal standard than required by the criminal justice system. Police target individuals to be named in an injunction, using criteria like past convictions, tattoos, clothing, signs, photos with family members or friends who may also have past convictions. Many times, “John Does,” are included in the injunction, which allows police to arrest anyone they target as a gang member.
The fact that most juggalos seem to be White and poor might explain why the story has actually gotten some notice in the national media and why that attention has been largely dismissive respectively.
To your average non-juggalo (I’m sure juggalos have a pejorative name for us), the world of the “dark carnival” seems like an extended Jerry Springer episode set in a meth house of horrors. So while their skin privilege gets them a mention in the press, their conspicuous poverty and cultural alienation get their fundamentally valid concerns laughed off the page.
Then again, there are plenty of alleged gangs that claim to be legitimate organizations. The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club consistently disputes any allegation that is a criminal enterprise, and I kindly request that their (no doubt upstanding) members refrain from doing a Hunter S. Thompson on my face for bringing it up.
The FBI technically has no direct control over what groups and individuals states classify as gangs and members, even though their reports on the matter obviously carry a great deal of weight. This was the crux of the ruling judge’s dismissal:
[The report] does not recommend any particular course of action for local law enforcement to follow, and instead operates as a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, assessment of nationwide gang trends.
But the ACLU of Michigan’s legal director Michael J. Steinberg says the FBI is clearly to blame for the harassment faced by juggalos targeted by law enforcement for gang affiliation:
There is no doubt that the FBI created this problem and the solution begins there as well. Otherwise, we’ll be playing whack-o-mole to stop local law enforcement agencies from discriminating against our clients, when the agencies are just following the FBI’s lead… The Juggalos are fighting for the basic American right to freely express who they are, to gather and share their appreciation of music, and to discuss issues that are important to them without fear of being unfairly targeted and harassed by police
Violent J just calls it “un-American bullshit:”
My take? I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which the FBI report in question confirms has some sizable juggalo activity. I knew my fair share of juggalos, and like many disaffected subcultures, they had (and all my research indicates have retained) a pronounced taste for strong drink, illegal drugs and cheap tattoos. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t make them all that dangerous.
And honestly, I’d call a grown man who paints his face to go to a concert a lot of things, but “gangster” would not be chief among them.
It’s easy to make fun of ICP:
the vast majority all of the music they’re involved with is basically awful, they re-framed their entire artistic conceit as some convoluted Christian evangelism almost two decades into their career and they don’t understand how fucking magnets work:
But shitty taste in music isn’t a crime, and I think Violent J is right to call the FBI report “bullshit.” I’ll be following this case and will keep you apprised of any developments. Whoop whoop!
Unleash The Paper Tigers!
German legislators, still dealing with political fallout from revelations that the NSA was spying on their heads of state, are now considering a drastic response to digital espionage — going analog.
According to a report by The Guardian, the German government may do away with computerized records and communication, returning to the days when an enterprising spy had to abscond with actual documents. That or steal and “read” typewriter ribbons .
From the report:
The head of the Bundestag’s parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany said… that he and his colleagues were seriously thinking of ditching email completely.
Asked “Are you considering typewriters” by the interviewer… the Christian Democrat politician Patrick Sensburg said: “As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either”. “Really?” the surprised interviewer checked. “Yes, no joke,” Sensburg responded.
No word on wether or not they are also considering the elimination of telephones, to be replaced with carrier pigeons.
And now, meet “Louie The Motherfucking Crayfish.” He apparently lost an eye in the pet shop, and he almost ended up as turtle food, but now he’s got his own theme music.
Watch out for those dodgy looking fish, Louie!