WASHINGTON - This is no ordinary gathering of Juggalos.
Unlike the annual bacchanalia and music festival anchored by the Detroit-based hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse known as the Gathering, today the iconic — and some say potentially dangerous — fans of the band will be headed to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday afternoon and evening to make a political point of protest.
Sure, there will be music, and sure there will be face paint. But the organizers of the march and rally say this isn't about partying, it's about the Juggalo family and clearing their name of any bad connotations.
"We need you and your voice to make sure that we shout above the chaos of this noisy world and are heard loudly and clearly as we deliver a message right into the nerve center of America that the Juggalo Family is not a joke, punchline, or any form of criminal organization," says the official website for the march, www.juggalomarch.com.
The controversy stems from the FBI's 2011 Gang Threat Assessment report, in which law enforcement officials listed the Juggalos — the adopted name of ICP's rabid, paint-faced fan base — as a "loosely organized hybrid gang," citing sporadic small-time criminal behavior but a larger potential for some subsets engaging in "more gang-like activity."
The report noted that only four states — Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and Utah — considered Juggalos to be a gang and later versions of the Gang Threat Assessment dropped any mention of them altogether. But Juggalo nation has been in a legal battle to clear their members' names ever since, saying people have lost jobs, been harassed by police and even been impacted in child custody battles because of the label.
Last year, a judge dismissed their case against the Justice Department but several members, along with the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan, are appealing to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. They say while Juggalos "express their shared identity by displaying distinctive tattoos, art, clothing" and that "some paint their faces like clowns," their purposes "do not include engaging in criminal activity."
That's not to say Juggalos haven't been involved in criminal acts. One in Wisconsin involved a woman's finger being chopped off. Another involved two men accused of beating and stomping another man in Maryland. But the ACLU's argument says that any large fan base is going to have a number of criminals in it.
"(Like) other musical fan bases, the vast majority of Juggalos have nothing to do with criminal activity," the most recent legal brief said, "let alone organized crime."
Organizers say they expect as many as 3,000 Juggalos to come to Washington, D.C. for the rally, march and protest, which begins at 2 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial and includes guest speakers, testimonials from Juggalos, more than a half-dozen musical acts and a march around the Washington Monument and back.
There's also a competing "Mother of All Rallies" rally on the Mall, too, with supporters of President Donald Trump rallying, though that's set to begin at another site, earlier in the day.
ICP's duo, Joseph (Violent J) Bruce and Joseph (Shaggy 2 Dope) Utsler, are set to speak briefly at 3:50 p.m. and then close out the day with a performance near the Lincoln Memorial beginning around 9 p.m.
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