As you may recall, the rap duo Insane Clown Posse and its fans, known as "Juggalos," have been up in arms for a while now because of the FBI's decision to classify Juggalos as "a loosely organized hybrid gang." See "Legal Action Announced at Gathering of the Juggalos," Lowering the Bar (Aug. 14, 2012); "Insane Clown Posse Sues FBI" (Sept. 26, 2012). The prior lawsuit alleged that the FBI had refused to comply adequately with a Freedom of Information Act request that sought records relating to the FBI's decision. That case is still pending, but on Wednesday the duo along with four Juggalos, assisted by the Michigan ACLU, sued DOJ and the FBI. They are now demanding that the Juggalos be removed from the list.
I am on record as agreeing with ICP that the "hybrid gang" classification, which appeared in a 2011 FBI report, is (their words) "straight-up bullshit." The FBI defined a "hybrid gang" as a "non-traditional gang that has "multiple affiliations, ethnicities, [a] migratory nature and nebulous structure" and a membership that is "transient and continuously evolving." As I wrote last year, in a joke that I still think is funny and so am going to keep using, that definition would also apply to the cast of Saturday Night Live, so it is not surprising that it also "applies" to Juggalos.
They are music fans, not gang members. Do some Juggalos commit crimes? Sure. Do all of them? Of course not. Is it always clear whether someone is a Juggalo or not? No. See "Suspect's Juggalo Status Unclear, Say Juggalo Experts" (May 31, 2011). Are police stopping people who display ICP or Juggalo symbols, apparently only for that reason? That's what the complaint alleges.
According to the complaint, which I had hoped would be captioned Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope v. the Man but instead is Parsons v. Department of Justice, the "gang" designation has caused "real harm to ordinary Juggalos" like the plaintiffs, who allegedly have been stopped, interrogated, denied employment, and so on, because of the designation. The complaint contains detailed allegations about each incident, in sections that all begin like this:
Plaintiff Mark Parsons
29. At all relevant times, Parsons was a Juggalo.
The two rappers (who, they point out, are themselves Juggalos), allege that a theater in Michigan canceled a 2012 performance at the request of the local police department, which "cited the federal Juggalo gang designation" when asking for the cancellation.
The complaint alleges, the designation is illegal for three reasons:
- It infringes on Juggalos' First Amendment freedoms and is unconstitutionally vague;
- It is arbitrary and capricious because it stigmatizes over a million people (the estimated number of Juggalos!) even though only a small fraction have committed any crimes; and
- The defendants illegally gathered information on Juggalos without reasonable grounds to believe they are involved in a "definable criminal activity or enterprise."
There are lots of ways to translate "straight-up bullshit" into legal terms, but these are the three specifically alleged in the complaint.