The FBI has classified fans of the Detroit-based hip-hop band Insane Clown Posse--who call themselves Juggalos and paint their faces like their heroes--as a violent, fast-growing "gang" worth monitoring. News of the bureau's move first came courtesy of Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman.
The Juggalos are highlighted in the bureau's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report as a "non-traditional gangs" alongside the traditional ethnic-based Asian, East African and Caribbean gangs; the report classifies Juggalos among "hybrid gangs" such as the Latin Kings.
According to information from the National Gang Intelligence Center cited in the report, the Juggalos "are rapidly expanding into many U.S. communities" and "engage in criminal activity and violence."
Law enforcement officials in at least 21 states "have identified criminal Juggalo sub-sets," according to the NGIC.
Most crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism. However, open source reporting suggests that a small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity, such as felony assaults, thefts, robberies, and drug sales.
The report states that in January 2011, a suspected Juggalo member shot and wounded a couple in King County, Wash.; in 2010, "two suspected Juggalo associates were charged with beating and robbing an elderly homeless man."
However, FBI specialists note that it can be hard to get a fix on the Juggalos and their whereabouts. Juggalos' "disorganization and lack of structure within their groups, coupled with their transient nature, makes it difficult to classify them and identify their members and migration patterns."
Many criminal Juggalo subsets are comprised of transient or homeless individuals, according to law enforcement reporting. Most Juggalo criminal groups are not motivated to migrate based upon traditional needs of a gang. However, law enforcement reporting suggests that Juggalo criminal activity has increased over the past several years and has expanded to several other states. Transient, criminal Juggalo groups pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature.
Though law enforcement officials in Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington "report the most Juggalo gang-related criminal activity," Juggalos "are present in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia." Juggalo gangs are expanding in New Mexico, in particular, "because they are attracted to the tribal and cultural traditions of the Native Americans residing nearby."
The FBI "gang" classification has prompted some purportedly law-abiding Juggalos to launch a petition in protest:
Many are college students, college graduates, and some with very high degrees in many different fields. Others are humble, work long hours, and earn everything that they own. True Juggalos and Juggalettes are a part of a sub culture to America, and are NOT criminals! This discrimination should not be allowed against innocent people because, of people claiming false belief in our culture.
A representative for the Insane Clown Posse did not immediately return requests for comment left with Psychopathic Records, the band's label.
The fascination with the Juggalos and their annual Gathering of the Juggalos--what the band itself bills as "the Most Controversial Music Festival in the World!"--has sparked media interest. Last year, the Village Voice ran a cover story, in which the writer, Camille Dodero, gave a firsthand account of the Juggalo gathering in rural Illinois (readers should note that Dodero's saga contains graphic accounts of sexual acts and drug use):
A map given at the entrance shows how HogRock has been carved into an Insane Clown Posse theme park: Three camping areas are rechristened the "Chaos District," "Loonie Boonies," and "Red Mist Mountain." Scattered around them are six separate stages, a wrestling ring, and an autograph tent. There is the Main Stage, where ICP will headline and Method Man will get his cheek bloodied from a flying object. There is the Second Stage, where bong MC Afroman will get figuratively stoned and reality-TV star Tila Tequila will get literally stoned. There is the Seminar Tent, where omnipresent porn icon Ron Jeremy will initial the sunburnt breast of a Juggalette already sporting a neck hickey, then take her inside his trailer.
Dodero thinks the recent "gang" classification is "ludicrous."
"It's like classifying New York Giants fans as a gang because people have committed crimes while wearing New York Giants hats," Dodero told The Cutline. "This whole gang thing is an allegation Juggalos have been dealing with for years. It's just strange the FBI has decided now to add them to their roster, when Juggalos have actually been getting the best (least outright and spiteful) press in the last 18 months than ever before."
Other popular Yahoo! News stories: