DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Insane Clown Posse’s next gig? A federal court.
It’s not a performance by the Detroit rap-metal duo, but arguments by lawyers who say Insane Clown Posse’s fans have been unfairly targeted by police. A 2011 FBI report described fans as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”
A Detroit federal judge last year said the U.S. Justice Department isn’t responsible for how authorities use a national report on gangs. An appeals court in Cincinnati is hearing arguments Thursday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan says the free speech and due process rights of Insane Clown Posse and fans are being violated. The fans are known as Juggalos. Many claim they have been targeted by police because they have jewelry or tattoos with the group’s symbol, a man running with a hatchet.
The two members of Insane Clown Posse are Joseph Bruce, known as Violent J, and Joseph Utsler, known as Shaggy 2 Dope.
Bruce has previously said labeling the band’s fans as “dangerous gang members” is causing lasting harm.
“Parents have lost custody of their kids, they’ve been fired from jobs, they’ve been denied housing,” he said. “They’ve been subjected to illegal searches and sometimes (they’re) added to a gang database simply for walking down a street wearing an ICP t-shirt.”
Because of the government’s actions, Bruce said, some stores now refuse to carry ICP music; and one fan claims the Army tried to force him to have his ICP tattoo removed.
Self-described Juggalo — 21-year-old Brandon Bradley of Sacramento, Calif. — says he’s been stopped several times by police for wearing his ICP hatchet man pendant and other ICP gear.
“I would just be walking down the road and they’ll ask me about, you know, why do I have this jacket … why are you a Juggalo, you know … when did you start listening to this music?” Bradley said. “And they’ll just treat me like I’m doing something wrong when I’m just getting back from work, you know. They’ll just harass me over what I’m wearing.”
Bradley, who is a plaintiff in the case, believes that because of the FBI gang designation, his name is in a gang database — which impacts his ability to work in a field like law enforcement — something he has long wanted to do.
ICP has come under fire in recent years over drug use by their fans; especially at the annual “Gathering of the Jugglaos” where there have been several overdoses, and a few deaths. The festival, described as “Juggalo Woodstock,” draws thousands of attendees each year.
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