Reputation Management

Small Business Owner or Face-Painted Gangster? 'Juggalos' Sue the FBI


The Insane Clown Posse attends the 2003 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas

Photograph by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

The Insane Clown Posse attends the 2003 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas

Last July, a Tennessee state trooper stopped a long-haul trucker named Mark Parsons at a weigh station outside of Knoxville and searched the truck for “axes, hatchets, or other similar chopping instruments.” It’s not the kind of suspicion most small business owners have to deal with. Why did authorities single out Parsons? According to a lawsuit (pdf) filed today in U.S. District Court in Michigan, he was searched because his truck was decorated with a logo known as the Hachetman to fans of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse.

The illustration marked Parsons as a Juggalo, which is what fans of the band call themselves. (Parson’s company, Juggalo Express, is registered in Utah.) The FBI’s National Gang Threat Assessment describes Juggalos as “a loosely organized hybrid gang, [who] are rapidly expanding into many U.S. communities.” Parsons is joining the two members of the Insane Clown Posse and three other fans in suing the Department of Justice to remove Juggalos from the gang watch list. The plaintiffs also want the government to cease gathering criminal intelligence on Juggalos based on their identification as members of the group. Christopher Allen, a spokesman for the FBI, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Insane Clown Posse, known for its “horrorcore” lyrics, painted faces, and bizarre antics—the duo is known, for instance, for spraying concertgoers with a cheap soda brand called Faygo—and have long been a magnet for controversy. A 1997 album called The Great Milenko was pulled from record stores after record label executives objected to its raunchy content. (The album later went platinum.) An annual music festival called the Gathering of the Juggalos has been marked by clashes with police. In 2011, the FBI included the Juggalos on its National Gang Threat Assessment, reporting that “most crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic.”

It continued:

“Many criminal Juggalo sub-sets are comprised of transient or homeless individuals, according to law enforcement reporting. Most Juggalo criminal groups are not motivated to migrate based upon traditional needs of a gang. … Transient, criminal Juggalo groups pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature.”

As a result of the gang designation, Juggalos have been targeted by law enforcement and discriminated against by employers, the lawsuit says. “Organized crime is by no means part of Juggalo culture,” the plaintiffs write. “When Juggalos come together at concerts or their annual week-long gathering every summer, they know they are in a community where all people are equal and where they will be accepted and respected for who they are.” From cult rap stars, to small business owners, to other ordinary Juggalos.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek covering small business and entrepreneurship.

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