Juggalos, as supporters of the rap group Insane Clown Posse are known, march past the Washington Monument Saturday as they head toward the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during a rally. The event was held to demand the FBI rescind its classification of the juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was out of town for the weekend, but that didn’t stop demonstrators from making him the focus of competing political rallies in the nation’s capital.
Kicking off a Saturday of diverse demonstrations, about two dozen protesters gathered in Lafayette Square, a park just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, to demand that Trump take strong action against Russian President Vladimir Putin in retaliation for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
They carried signs that said “We’re not PUTIN up with it!” and “Protect American Democracy.” After their rally, marchers headed to the home of the Russian ambassador a few blocks away.
Nearby, on the National Mall close to the Washington Monument, about 500 Trump supporters assembled for an all-day demonstration and concert.
The event’s website appealed for people to “help send a message to Congress, the media & the world” that “we stand united to defend American culture & values.” The pitch to would-be participants: “If you stand for patriotism and freedom, this rally is for you!”
D.C. police feared friction between the groups along the lines of the clashes between white supremacists and leftwing demonstrators that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va., last month.
Authorities had plans in place, including street restrictions, to keep order and separate the groups as necessary. Looming over them was the response in Charlottesville, where police were faulted for a slow reaction as the protest turned violent.
D.C. police announced at least 15 road closures around the National Mall. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said the Smithsonian station on the Mall would be closed, and trains on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines were to run through the station Saturday but not stop.
Trump was spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey before attending the United Nations General Assembly this week.
Later, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, more than 1,000 juggalos, as supporters of the rap group Insane Clown Posse are known, rallied and held a concert. They are pushing their demand that the FBI rescind its classification of juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”
The protesters listened to a series of speakers and musicians amid clouds of marijuana smoke. They chanted “family” and an obscenity about the FBI.
The rap duo has developed an intensely devoted fan base over the course of a 25-year career, and some fans held signs that said, “Music is Not a Crime.”
A 2011 report by the Justice Department’s Gang Task Force placed the juggalos, who favor extensive tattoos and face paint, in the same classification as overtly violent gangs such as the Bloods and the Crips.
The rap group and its fans claim to be a nonviolent community subject to largely class-based discrimination by law enforcement. The band, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the FBI in 2014 seeking to change the classification but has so far had little success.
Jason Webber, an organizer of the juggalo rally, said ahead of the rally that the group is apolitical but noted that many of the band’s songs decry bigotry.