Jug­ga­los rally on Mall to protest FBI’s gang la­bel

The Press - - World -

UNITED STATES: The steps of the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial have been the scene of solemn protest for decades, but when one man shouted ‘‘Show us your but­t­hole!’’ yes­ter­day it was clear that the Jug­galo March on Wash­ing­ton was go­ing to be like no other.

Tat­tooed, pierced and wear­ing clown makeup, hun­dreds of fans of the rap-metal group In­sane Clown Posse gath­ered at the sto­ried lo­ca­tion to protest the FBI’s la­belling the fan base a gang in 2011.

One pro­tester cir­cu­lated in a ‘‘Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre’’-style mask, an­other in lin­gerie and a third in foot­ball shoul­der pads. They raised their mid­dle fin­gers, cursed and whooped.

The style was out­ra­geous, but the pur­pose was se­ri­ous: Jug­ga­los, as the band’s hard­core fans are known, said the gang la­bel is un­fair and has cost them jobs, got­ten them sus­pended from school, barred from the mil­i­tary and en­tered into gang data­bases.

Amie Puter­baugh, 36, from out­side of Day­ton, Ohio, trav­elled to the Dis­trict of Columbia with two friends for the rally.

She said she had been pro­filed by po­lice in Ohio be­cause of the gang des­ig­na­tion.

‘‘It’s bulls---!’’ Puter­baugh said of the gang la­bel. ‘‘It’s like la­belling Dead­heads a gang. It’s like la­belling Lady Gaga’s Lit­tle Mon­sters a gang. If we don’t stand up for our First Amend­ment rights, who is next?’’

In­sane Clown Posse, which got its start in Detroit in 1989, blends rap, metal and car­ni­val the­atrics. Vi­o­lent J and Shaggy 2 Dope take the stage in clown makeup and douse their fans with cheap Fay­go­b­rand soda.

The band has sold mil­lions of al­bums and in­spired one of the most loyal and no­to­ri­ous fol­low­ings in pop mu­sic, while largely re­main­ing out­side the main­stream.

Six years ago the FBI la­belled Jug­ga­los a gang in a bi­en­nial gang re­port that serves as a ref­er­ence for law en­force­ment na­tion­wide.

The move fol­lowed a string of crimes from ar­son to homi­cide that were com­mit­ted by peo­ple who were iden­ti­fied as Jug­ga­los over the pre­vi­ous five or six years.

The la­bel an­gered the band and its fans, who said it was in­ac­cu­rate and ef­fec­tively crim­i­nalised be­ing fans of a pop group. Many not associated with gangs said they have been stopped by po­lice while wear­ing band-re­lated shirts or other gear.

The prob­lems sparked a cam­paign by the band and its fans to get the FBI to dis­avow the la­bel.

In 2014, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union sued the FBI on be­half of a hand­ful of Jug­ga­los, say­ing the gang la­bel vi­o­lated the fans’ First Amend­ment rights to free speech and assem­bly.

The fed­eral suit was dis­missed last year on tech­ni­cal grounds, but the ACLU is ap­peal­ing that rul­ing.

Kevin Gill, a well-known Jug­galo, kicked off the rally yes­ter­day with a pas­sion­ate plea for the FBI to re­scind the gang la­bel. He told Jug­ga­los it was the most im­por­tant day of their lives.

‘‘Can I get a ‘whoop-whoop’ we can hear in the White House!’’ he said from a stage in front of the me­mo­rial.

The crowd obliged with a deep ‘‘Whoop-whoop!’’

- Wash­ing­ton Post

PHOTO: REUTERS

In­sane Clown Posse mem­bers Joseph Ut­sler, known by his stage name Shaggy 2 Dope, and Joseph Bruce, known by his stage name Vi­o­lent J, speak dur­ing the Jug­galo March in Wash­ing­ton.

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