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In America you can be fired from your job, be rejected from joining the military, or even lose custody of your children because of the music you enjoy. As absurd as it sounds, this is what has happened to hundreds of Juggalos (fans of the Insane Clown Posse) all across our country. They’ve been targeted by our nation’s legal system and have faced retribution for merely wearing an Insane Clown Posse shirt, or liking the group on Facebook. This is wrong. This is fundamentally un-American. And I think all music fans need to take a stand.
Here’s a quick run-down of why Juggalos are at risk. Back in 2011 the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center classified Juggalos as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang.” They noted that while some gangs have appropriated the imagery of Insane Clown Posse, the vast majority of Juggalos are unconnected with that gang activity. There have been several lawsuits filed to change that classification, included one filed in conjunction with the ACLU, but 6 years after the initial ruling nothing has changed. And Juggalos are still being targeted. Losing jobs. Losing children. Losing the freedoms I had wrongly assumed all Americans were endowed with from birth. Read dozens of testimonials here from Juggalos right here.
So to raise awareness, the Insane Clown Posse is hosting a Juggalo March (and concert) through DC this weekend. And I will be marching with them, because I’m a Juggalo too.
It’s easy to laugh at Juggalos. I mean we literally are fans of a band that dresses as clowns. I’ve seen many friends share stories about this march that focus on the silliness of Juggalos, and not the injustices of the gang classification. Have a laugh. But also please read. And learn what’s going on. And share the plight of the Juggalos in earnest. And most importantly realize that if we allow our government to go after one fan base, who is to say that they won’t go after others?
As I write this piece I’m wearing a Grateful Dead shirt. And honestly, I don’t see much difference between Deadheads and Juggalos. Nathan Rabin famously compared Phish fans to Juggalos in his book You Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me. The music of these groups has served as a lightning rod for folks who otherwise felt ignored or forgotten by society. We are outsiders. We are weirdos. But we’ve found those other weirdos. And we’ve built a place outside of normal society where we can be ourselves.
I have to assume that even if Deadheads were to be classified as a gang, there are ample Grateful Dead fanatics in Washington D.C. (including several senators) to get the FBI to see the error of their ways.
Unfortunately there aren’t any Juggalos in the United States Senate yet. But Juggalos shouldn’t be fighting this battle alone. We all should join in and make our voices heard. That this is wrong. That our government shouldn’t be allowed to tar an entire fan base. That wearing a shirt isn’t a crime.
There are many injustices in our society. Most of those injustices have solutions that are almost as complicated as the problem. But this one, the Juggalo gang classification, can be fixed very easily. And with some work from music fans across all genres I know it will be changed. See you on Saturday, I’ll be the Juggalo in the tie-dyed Dead shirt!