In the FBI’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, fans of the horrorcore rap duo Insane Clown Posse, known as Juggalos, were labeled a ”loosely-organized hybrid gang.” According to the FBI, most “crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized [and] individualistic,” and the group’s “disorganization and lack of structure…, coupled with their transient nature, makes it difficult to classify them and identify their members and migration patterns. “ Now, the ICP plans to sue the FBI for giving its face-painting followers the potentially dangerous label. In an interview with Vice Magazine, the band’s frontman Violent J (née Joseph Bruce) had this to say: “a Juggalo is not a gang member. Consider a Juggalo that, 15 years ago, got a hatchet man tattoo or something. Now they’ve got a family, they’re working in real estate or something, and they’re driving home and get a speeding ticket. Next thing you know, he’s in the gang file, and that will be taken into consideration in any trial. Suddenly, it ain’t just somebody who f***ed up, it’s a gang member who f***ed up, and they’re getting a heavier sentence.”
Indeed, a gang affiliation can mean harsher legal treatment for a non-gang-related crime. Earlier this month, the U.S. Marshals Service announced the capture of 20-year-old Mark Anthony Carlson, who was wanted on an outstanding warrant. His warrants were for violating the terms of which probation, on which he was placed after serving two years in county jail for armed robbery. The Marshals’ press release, titled, “Gang Member Removed from New Mexico’s Most Wanted” stated that “Carlson is a member of the Insane Clown Posse “Juggalo” gang, and fled the state of New Mexico shortly after hearing he was placed on the United States Marshals Service District of New Mexico’s ‘Most Wanted Program.’” The Marshals Service has not commented on whether Carlson’s identity as a Juggalo — made evident by the crossed hatchet tattoo under his eye — was the reasoning behind his placement on the Most Wanted list. The other members of the US Marshals Most Wanted Gang Offenders list belong to the South Side Locos or Juarez Cartel, gangs known for drug trade and violence.
Besides the impact the gang label can have on Juggalos and employees of Psychopathic Records, the ‘wicked clowns’ behind ICP are not happy that their Hatchetwear line of merchandise has been effectively rendered gang wear. Clothing items bearing the ‘hatchetman’ logo are prohibited at some schools, and the nationwide chain of rock and sub-culture merchandise Hot Topic has stopped carrying the brand.
ICP has launched a website called JuggalosFightBack.com which offers Juggalos a chance to have their situation reviewed by Insane Clown Posse’s legal team. At this point, ICP have not filed the lawsuit, but have made their intentions clear to several media outlets, including Vice and the Village Voice.
There have been several serious violent crimes committed by Juggalos in recent years. In February, 2009, two Pennsylvania teens brutally murdered 21-year-old Army veteran Michael Goucher, who was reported missing for a week before his body was found in a wooded area. He had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and stomach. The teens, Ian Seagraves Nicholas Freemore, displayed Juggalo imagery on their MySpace pages. In April 2010, Alex Pacheco, 19, pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the 2008 killing of his 13-year-old girlfriend Kelsey Shannon. Prosecutors said Pacheco, a self-proclaimed Juggalo, strangled and stabbed Shannon, then had sex with her corpse. While the gravity of these crimes is undeniable, the question remains whether their motivation was individualistic or a form of misguided loyalty to the Juggalo cause.