Jug­ga­los rally on Mall to protest gang la­bel they say is wrong and harm­ful

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WEATHER - BY JUSTIN JOUVENAL justin.jouvenal@wash­post.com

The steps of the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial have been the scene of solemn protest for decades, but when one man shouted “Show us your but­t­hole!” on Satur­day 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 la­bel­ing 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, trav­eled to the District 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 la­bel­ing Dead­heads a gang. It’s like la­bel­ing Lady Gaga’s Lit­tle Mon- sters 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 Faygo-brand 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 la­beled 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 crim­i­nal­ized 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 Satur­day 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!”

“The Jug­galo March is like the Bos­ton Tea Party for mu­sic fans,” Gill said.

Marchers held signs that said “Amer­i­can Jug­galo Tax­payer” and “Faygo not Fas­cism.”

An FBI spokes­woman said the agency could not com­ment on the march or the Jug­galo law­suit, but it did make a gen­eral state­ment about its 2011 re­port, which was based on in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments.

“The 2011 Na­tional Gang Threat Assess­ment was com­prised of in­for­ma­tion shared with the Na­tional Gang In­tel­li­gence Cen­ter and the FBI from law en­force­ment agen­cies around the coun­try,” it read. “The 2011 re­port specif­i­cally noted that the Jug­ga­los had been rec­og­nized as a gang in only four states.”

ASTRID RIECKEN FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Jug­ga­los gather near the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial for their protest march. The Jug­ga­los are fans of the rap­metal group In­sane Clown Posse, and in 2011 the FBI in­cluded them in a re­port on gang ac­tiv­ity.

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