‘A country of weirdos’: Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo fans protest gang designation
Hundreds of Juggalos, led by the rap-metal duo Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, gathered in Washington on Saturday to protest the FBI decision to label them a 'gang'.
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WASHINGTON—Even Insane Clown Posse couldn’t quite believe it.
“We’re the good guys here today,” Violent J, one half of the widely loathed face-painting “horrorcore” rap duo, told the fans, known as “Juggalos,” who had gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “We’re actually in the right this time!”
The Juggalos, so easy to make fun of, had a case: the feds were the real clowns. And for a surreal Washington afternoon, the colourful people of one of America’s most-mocked subcultures were being seen by powerful people as freedom fighters, weird makeup and all.
Profane freedom fighters, yes. Two of the Juggalos’ Saturday refrains of choice: “You f---ed up” and “F--- that s---,” which they occasionally chanted in the direction of police helicopters, fingers extended skyward.
But this was the exception. They were so cheerful that some of them insisted on hugging journalists. And their favourite chant was a single upbeat word: “family.”
It was their response to the term the FBI insists describes them: gang.
“We’re different,” said rally host Kevin Gill. “We’re not dangerous.”
Hundreds of Juggalos had assembled for the demonstration and march in protest of a curious six-year-old FBI decision to include the Juggalos in their official national gang list, alongside such indisputably dangerous entities as MS-13.
The gang classification, Juggalos said, had led employers to force them out of jobs, convinced judges to deny them custody of their kids, and subjected them to police harassment for their Insane Clown Posse tattoos. One Virginia woman, Jessica Bonometti, said she had been fired as a probation officer because of Facebook posts about the band.
“If horrorcore’s so scary,” she said, “why isn’t Stephen King in jail?”
The classification was based on what the FBI called “sporadic, disorganized, individualistic” violence by people identifying as Juggalos. At the rally, Juggalos said criminals could be found among Justin Bieber’s “Beliebers,” Grateful Dead “Deadheads,” or any other large group.
“I mean, look at the government. You’ve got bad people in there, right?” said Ryan Lee, 35, a Virginia construction worker, homeowner and father of three. “We’re here because we’re not bad. It’s all love and all family.”
Many Insane Clown Posse fans are low-income white people. They said the Juggalos are a loving band of misfits, supportive and inclusive, mischaracterized by a mainstream society that rejected them even before some of them started painting their faces.
“People fear what they don’t understand,” says Amy Puterbaugh, 36, of Ohio, whose sign read “F--- the FBI.”
“We listen to scary music. People don’t know what to think about us. We just love our band, man,“ said Lee’s friend Jeff Feken, 33, whose sign read “Make America Whoop Again,” a reference to the “whoop whoop” call Juggalos use to say hello and applaud, because…
Juggalos will be Juggalos. This was probably the only Washington protest in history at which marchers sprayed cheap pop into the air: Faygo, the Detroit beverage beloved by the Michigan-bred group.
“America is a country of weirdos. Celebrate it,” Jacob Roman, 18, shouted into a megaphone, a bottle of Faygo in hand.
Violent J and partner Shaggy 2 Dope cast the Juggalos as the defenders of Americans of all kinds, warning that the persecution of America’s “most hated people” would inevitably lead to the persecution of others. As usual, they railed against racism, homophobia and economic segregation.
And, as usual, they cursed a lot. They also discussed “buttholes.” And they said the Juggalo activists should be so proud that they should perform sex acts on the “governmently-fine” lawn.
“Let’s march, mothaf-----,” Violent J said to end the rally, and off the Juggalos went, demanding their rights.