How Insane Clown Posse gained hearts and minds on the Juggalo March

Violent J walks within the Juggalo March Saturday with ICP character Kevin Gill (left). (All photographs: Kyle Ryan)

Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King Jr. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope.

Saturday’s Juggalo March on Washington, D.C., provided a bounty of contrasts, because the nation’s august white memorial and its prolonged reflecting pool hosted a horde greatest described as colourful, each actually and figuratively: many with neon hair and equally loud outfits, steadily breaking into Insane Clown Posse chants, and holding protest indicators that stated issues like “FUCK OUTTA HERE IF YOU AIN’T DOWN WITH THE CLOWN.”

A Juggalo hangs out after the march.

The Insane Clown Posse and its followers, the Juggalos, have been punch traces for greater than twenty years. ICP’s proudly low-rent horrorcore rap traffics in outrageousness—cartoonish violence and imagery, replete with obscenity, and is steadily foolish and self-aware. They’re a hip-hop duo not identified for his or her beats or rhymes (or at the very least not in a great way). But they’ve created a thriving underground empire due to some of popular culture’s most engaged followers.

But if ICP is a punch line, Juggalos one way or the other rank under that: It’s one factor to create this music; it’s worse to make ICP and artists on the group’s Psychopathic Information a central tenet of your identification. Although ICP began in Detroit, its followers are usually thought to be low-class, uneducated hillbillies from the nation’s ignored two-bit cities.

Like lots of stereotypes, the Juggalo caricature has some foundation the truth is. Juggalos do are usually working class and hail from the agricultural areas and exurbs of flyover states. Nevertheless it hardly embarrasses them; they proudly self-identify themselves as “SCRUBS,” as the largest banner I noticed Saturday afternoon famous in massive, heavy purple letters. They got here to D.C. to inform the world—and particularly U.S. legislation enforcement—that they aren’t the “loosely organized hybrid gang” the Division Of Justice labeled them in 2011. As one other signal I noticed put it, “I’m only a music fan with a very massive household.”


That’s a important theme of any Juggalo occasion, marked by spontaneous chants of “Fa-mi-ly! Fa-mi-ly! Fa-mi-ly!” I might hear it from the close by Vietnam Veterans Memorial as I arrived Saturday afternoon at 1, an hour earlier than the day formally started. Followers milled round a small stage on the backside of the steps close to the reflecting pool in entrance of the Lincoln Memorial. Two tents flanked the stage, which had two Juggalo March banners hanging down the again and a red-and-black podium at stage middle, a purple Hatchet Man carved in its entrance.

ICP requested Juggalos to not arrive earlier than 1 p.m., however a pair hundred individuals had been already there, sharing the ample grounds across the Lincoln Memorial with vacationers who didn’t pay an excessive amount of consideration at first, however would later be drawn into the spectacle.

A crowd watches the testimonials that started the Juggalo March.

ICP had an bold day deliberate: testimonials from 14 audio system (together with A.V. Membership alumnus and Juggalo Nathan Rabin), 10 musical performances in between them, and a 2.Four-mile march scheduled to final 90 minutes. The occasion would run from 2 to 10 p.m. and shut with an hour-long ICP efficiency. The Parks Service virtually definitely gave occasion organizers a tough curfew at 10, and to maintain every part shifting, organizers deliberate the entire day right down to the minute. Unsurprisingly, every part went off schedule instantly.

The day was set to start out powerfully: Juggalos chatting with the group about how the gang designation had actual, horrible results on their lives. Juggalos marching on Washington made for simple jokes, however the cause for the march took the humor out of them. Even Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope confessed they wore the gang designation as a badge of honor at first—till their followers began sharing their tales.

Crystal Guerro from New Mexico started with a narrative about how going to at least one ICP present was sufficient for her to lose a bitter custody battle for her two children, whom she now solely sees six hours per week. This can be a sadly frequent phenomenon amongst Juggalos. I spoke to Rafael Ramirez, a Juggalo from Cherokee, North Carolina, who drove to the march on behalf of a sick good friend who misplaced custody of his children due to the gang designation. The person’s ex pointed to his buddies (together with Ramirez) in open court docket and stated they had been Juggalos, which was sufficient for the choose to grant her full custody.

One other speaker, Laura King of Virginia, was on probation for a DUI when an officer observed her Hatchet Man tattoo. That triggered a cascade of strict authorities supervision, together with guidelines forbidding her from associating with different Juggalos, attending ICP reveals, and buying any ICP gear (together with, oddly, paintbrushes, which elicited a “Be careful, she’s received a paintbrush!” from the viewers). She additionally needed to obtain authorities approval for any new tattoo.

Jessica Bonometti of Virginia tearfully spoke about dropping her job as a probation officer final 12 months as a result of her Fb web page had ICP-related photographs and likes. She describes what occurred in a prolonged submit on the march’s web site: “Proper earlier than [my boss] escorted me off the property, I requested her for clarification and acknowledged, ‘So, I’m being terminated for the kind of music I hearken to whereas not at work?’ She replied, ‘Sure.’” Although Bonometti’s a veteran civil servant, she’s been unable to seek out one other job due to the ICP affiliation.

Though the tales differed, all of them painted a damning portrait of discrimination based mostly on the flimsiest of causes. The DOJ’s 2011 Nationwide Gang Menace Evaluation famous that Juggalos “are quickly increasing into many U.S. communities,” however conceded, “most crimes dedicated by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and infrequently contain easy assault, private drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism.” Naturally a “nevertheless” follows, stating that “open supply reporting”—which the menace evaluation neither defines nor cites particular examples of—reveals “a small variety of Juggalos are forming organized subsets and fascinating in additional gang-like exercise, reminiscent of felony assaults, thefts, robberies, and drug gross sales.” The Juggalo part ended with an ATF photograph of a “typical” Juggalo: a lady in clown make-up sporting a jersey for Psychopathic’s Blaze Ya Useless Homie and pointing a gun on the digital camera. (The photograph has since appeared in dozens of tales about supposed Juggalo gangs.)

The holes within the logic had been clear to everybody exterior of legislation enforcement: Easy assault, private drug use/possession, petty theft, and vandalism are hardly unique to Juggalo gatherings, they usually’re statistically insignificant in comparison with, say, crimes dedicated inside stadiums throughout NFL video games. A 2013 investigative report by KIRO TV in Seattle famous that, whereas the NFL retains detailed data of crime inside stadiums, it retains the info secret “to guard sure groups from public scrutiny.” Nonetheless, KIRO checked out 10,000 incidents over the course of two and a half seasons and located “tons of of felony-level crime arrests seem within the stories, together with rape, kidnapping, lynching, theft, drug dealing, little one sexual abuse and aggravated assault of law enforcement officials.”

What in regards to the logos these followers put on? Precise legal gangs have an extended historical past of appropriating sportswear, however legislation enforcement isn’t about to categorise followers of the L.A. Dodgers a gang. However nothing’s extra mainstream than sports activities, and legislation enforcement definitely is aware of crew’s colours and brand can produce other meanings.

“Household” is a giant theme at any gathering of Juggalos.

Whereas legislation enforcement is fast to label one thing a menace, nothing makes it look unwarranted just like the passage of time. As Kevin Gill, ICP character and the Juggalo March’s MC, famous in his opening speech, within the ’40s and ’50s, authorities blamed comedian books for a bunch of societal ills, from homosexuality to juvenile delinquency. The identical points accompanied the rise of rock ’n’ roll, with the added layer of thinly veiled racism. New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles banned pinball for many years. Within the ’80s, a tide of panic over music led to the institution of the Dad and mom Music Useful resource Heart and put Judas Priest on trial for the supposed subliminal messages hidden in its music. The arguments towards video video games have shifted with the medium over the previous 40 years, relying on the day’s anxieties.

Just about each style of music has been in legislation enforcement’s crosshairs in some unspecified time in the future, however by no means on the extent of gang designation. (“If Juggalos are a gang, then the Grateful Useless are the triple OG motherfuckers!” Gill bellowed throughout his speech.) This occurred beneath the watch of the largely progressive Obama administration. Now with a reactionary, notoriously ill-informed president within the White Home, speaker after speaker on the Juggalo March raised a query that might’ve sounded much more far-fetched when the march was introduced final September: Authorities might criminalize what you like subsequent.


As Saturday afternoon wore on, the occasion fell additional not on time. Performances by Onyx and Lil Eazy-E had been tabled as organizers scrambled to get the march began on time, however Four p.m. got here and went. By Four:30, the group was nonetheless ready for Violent J and Shaggy to make their massive pre-march speech. Finally the duo took the stage, flanked by their households and Psychopathic artists and staff. Like ICP itself, the speech was heartfelt, bombastic, self-deprecating, and comical. (J stated he’d quite “sew a person’s butthole shut” than take away his rights or one thing to that impact.) It stopped a number of occasions due to issues with the laptop computer J and Shaggy learn from, prompting one other favourite Juggalo chant, “You fucked up! You fucked up!” It’s much less mockery than a celebration of errors, one other expression of acceptance. Even standing in entrance of their adoring followers at a sacrosanct nationwide landmark, ICP didn’t change their conduct. (See the butthole remark.) They’d made it this far being scrubs, so why change now?

“I don’t give a fuck what the intelligence says, what the intelligence students educate the feds in legislation college,” J bellowed on the finish of his speech. “Intelligence is make a nuclear bomb, however knowledge is how to not use it! Juggalos possess mad knowledge! We’re a household, ninjas!”

The group began chanting, “Fa-mi-ly! Fa-mi-ly! Fa-mi-ly!”

“That’s proper, and we received household at dwelling we’re marching for!” J continued. “This may occasionally sound corny, however it’s actual shit: Love at all times wins each time! And we’re marching for love, Juggalo household love! I don’t know what the fuck they’re marching for, I don’t know what the fuck they’re speaking about, however we’re out right here combating for freedom and Juggalo love! This our day, on our 12 months! Are you prepared?!”

The group chanted, “Seventeen! Seventeen! Seventeen!”

“We’re gonna march, we’re gonna be proud, and we’re gonna be loud,” J shouted. “And whenever you go away D.C., take this with you, ninjas: The Juggalo household and the depraved clowns won’t ever die! Let’s march, motherfuckers!”

The group roared, however didn’t know the place to go. A brand new chant began: “Which method, J? Which method, J?”


The sky after the Juggalo March.

Within the weeks main as much as the Juggalo March, a lot had been made about one other march. The Mom Of All Rallies would “HELP SEND A MESSAGE TO CONGRESS, THE MEDIA, AND THE WORLD WE STAND UNITED TO DEFEND AMERICAN CULTURE AND VALUES,” and could be held on a part of the Nationwide Mall the identical time because the Juggalo March. The rally’s web site proclaimed, “THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN RALLY. ITS [sic] NOT A LEFT OR RIGHT RALLY.” Nevertheless it defensively added, “ANYONE WHO WOULD PROTEST THIS RALLY IS PROTESTING AMERICA AND SHOWING THEMSELVES TO BE THE VERY DOMESTIC ENEMIES OUR FOUNDING FATHERS WARNED US ABOUT. ANYONE ATTEMPTING TO SILENCE US IS COMMITTING A DIRECT ASSAULT ON OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF FREE ASSEMBLY.”

Regardless of its faintly non-partisan rhetoric, the occasion’s web site and Fb web page indicated a right-wing rally with audio system just like the founding father of Latinos For Trump, a Republican congressional candidate from California operating towards Maxine Waters, and an ex-Marine whose YouTube video made him a right-wing trigger célèbre. The Mom Of All Rallies additionally featured a efficiency by jingo-rock band Madison Rising, which solutions the query, What would a third-rate flag-humping Creed sound like?

To MOAR’s credit score, it banned Accomplice flags and advised racists (“of all colours”) they weren’t welcome. Certainly one of MOAR’s organizers additionally reached out to individuals on the Juggalo March’s Fb web page to increase an invite to the occasion and reply questions. Juggalos largely averted posting on MOAR’s Fb web page, which was relentlessly trolled by gleeful Trump haters, to the consternation of individuals simply eager to have a good time “American values.”

They didn’t really come into shut contact with one another on the bottom, both. The Juggalo March adopted the reflecting pool from the Lincoln Memorial, turned up 17th Avenue subsequent to the World Struggle II Memorial, then headed west on Structure Avenue—not removed from the White Home—then down 15th Avenue, previous the Washington Monument, turning west close to Independence Avenue and again alongside the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. The march would move MOAR whereas taking place 15th Avenue, the place a berm and 14th Avenue separated the march from the Nationwide Mall internet hosting MOAR.

Marchers move the Washington Monument.

Earlier than the march, I sat on the steps behind the stage and observed some guys in purple hats within the distance to the southwest of the occasion. Once I walked nearer, I discovered a couple of dozen twentysomething dudes decked out in Trump gear, from the purple hats to a Trump flag, and within the case of the lone black man within the group, a shirt that stated, “DONALD TRUMP MATTERS.” Throughout from them had been about 15 members of antifa armed for any “direct motion” which will occur throughout the march. A bunch of legislation enforcement saved watch on them close by. Jezebel’s Anna Merlan watched them watching one another, telling me that the man taking footage of antifa was a cop. I noticed a man sporting a backward MAGA hat snapping photographs of the group as nicely, together with the Democratic Socialists Of America, who frolicked close to me behind the stage. Antifa finally moved away from the police, and the Trump guys misplaced curiosity shortly thereafter, too.

Antifa on the Juggalo March.

I spoke with a freelancer who’d visited MOAR earlier within the day to discover a sparsely attended, hostile crowd. He estimated a most of 200 attendees, together with some militiamen offering “safety” (to the annoyance of the particular police). Guidelines forbade them from bringing any sort of weapons to the Mall, so that they settled on totally different intimidating techniques. As he began taking photographs, the person advised me, the militia guys surrounded him. He needed to remind them he was in a public house and free to take as many photographs as he appreciated, however that they had made their level.

For all its anticipation, a probably violent tradition conflict went unfulfilled. For one factor, Trump gained the agricultural areas that Juggalos name dwelling, so he’s not with out help amongst ICP followers. Second, the march and MOAR had been separated by a pair hundred yards, if no more. The tall berm separating 14th and 15th streets ensured neither facet would see one another except they actively sought to. The few MAGA-hatted individuals I did see alongside the route simply watched the march like everybody else, as a result of, you realize, it’s a march of individuals sporting clown make-up shouting, “Fuck the FBI!” I hopped the berm to take a look at MOAR, however might solely hear the strains of the nationwide anthem wafting via the air. I couldn’t gauge turnout as a result of I used to be so distant, however stories put attendance at a couple of hundred at most. Judging by the “hey guys, at the very least we tried” tone of feedback on the occasion’s Fb web page, that’s in all probability correct.

An entire lot of house separated MOAR (far background) from the Juggalo March.

Within the weeks earlier than the Juggalo March, organizers advised me they didn’t have an actual sense of how many individuals would present up. The occasion’s Fb web page listed greater than 5,400 “,” however that was hardly a assure. (MOAR’s Fb web page listed greater than 6,000 as .) I’d put it at a pair thousand Juggalos, although they made sufficient racket to sound greater. To the delight of media stories, a bunch of clowns had delivered one more embarrassment to Trump supporters.


This was a well-liked meme within the days main as much as the Juggalo March.

The Division Of Justice aimed to help legislation enforcement in countering the Juggalo menace, however in a wholly predictable flip of occasions, has succeeded solely in giving Insane Clown Posse an even bigger stage and one thing it’s by no means had: respectability. It didn’t want it from anybody—ICP has lengthy thrived with out it—however the injustice of the gang designation has made individuals put aside their dislike of ICP’s artwork to face with their wrestle.

ICP organized the march after exhausting its authorized challenges to the gang designation. It appears extremely unlikely presidential administration that treats legislation enforcement like dwelling saints will do something to reverse it. Even when that occurred, the DOJ has already poisoned the nicely for legislation enforcement businesses, which have been skilled to deal with Juggalos with suspicion. Assuaging that bias will take years.

That’s not the case for individuals who used to make simple jokes about ICP and Juggalos. What was comical is now a trigger.

Possibly we’ve at all times been down with the clown?

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