If you're wondering why the FBI ever designated Juggalos — the notoriously unhinged fans of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse — as a criminal gang, a newly public set of documents has the answer. Because of news stories, apparently, and because some of their fans committed crimes.
The FBI file, posted at MuckRock.com yesterday afternoon (and spotted by Digg), reads like a 1976 high school principal's report to parents about Ozzy Osbourne — or, better, like a negative review of The Warriors. "The Juggalos are a violent street gang," the background section of one agent's memo reads, "whose membership follow a small niche of the rap scene, known as 'horrorcore.'" Artists like Insane Clown Posse — rappers Shaggy 2 Dope and Guy Fieri-lookalike Violent J — perform "musical horror stories in which murder, rape and suicide are recurrent themes." The description continues:
Insane Clown Posse can't get its music on the radio, but claims to have 1 million devoted fans who call themselves "Juggalos" or "Juggalettes," and sometimes paint their faces to look like wicked clowns. Some continue the dress by carrying small axes, like the cartoon hatchet man associated with the band. …
The juggalos have been charged with discharge of a firearm. Juggalos crimes also include drug sales, drug possession, child endangerment, as well and many other crimes typically seen by gangs and gang members.
It's probably safe to assume that in any population of one million people, there's going to be a bit of drug dealing and the occasional firearm discharge. San Jose, California, has about one million members, and has a lot more crimes than that.
There's not a lot worth reading in the full report, actually. About half of it is redacted, reports from FBI field offices and other law enforcement officials covered with large white boxes. The second half is news articles, like this one from the Seattle Times in 2011. It reports on a self-described "former juggalo" arrested for shooting two people — perhaps the firearm discharge with which "the juggalos have been charged."
MuckRock summarizes the FBI's rationale.
The goals of the investigation were to “examine the structure, scope, and relationships pertaining to the … violent street gang; to identify members and the organization structure of the gang,” and, perhaps most surprisingly, “to identify all illegal activities which may constitute a pattern of racketeering activity.”
Ultimately, the FBI hoped to “develop larger conspiracy investigations and successful conspiracy prosecutions” of even single robberies using the Hobbs Act, a statute frequently used in corruption cases involving public officials and labor unions.
Not sure how that happened given the evidence at hand. A much more alarming depiction of the group comes from Camille Dodero's definitive 2010 Village Voice article, which is worth reading again and again. It depicts that year's Gathering of the Juggalos and features a large group of drunk, stoned young people unbound by social conventions. It depicts a modern version of an old story: young people rebelling against the man.
That being the case, it appears that the FBI was just playing its proper role.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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