A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by rap duo Insane Clown Posse and their fans against the Department of Justice for labeling them a “loosely-organized hybrid gang” dealing a major blow to the group’s quest to rid them from the stigma.
The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Monday affirmed a district court’s ruling that the FBI’s designation in 2011 is not reviewable because it was not a “final agency action” and thus cannot be reviewed.
The duo – Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, better known as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope – and fans of the group, known as Juggalos, argued that the gang designation violated their First and Fifth Amendment rights and claimed they were unfairly targeted by government officials.
“The practical effect of the gang designation, appellants argue, is that Juggalos are discouraged from associating with each other or publicly expressing their identity because it makes them a target for law-enforcement,” the court wrote.
One plaintiff in the case who runs a trucking business in Utah called the Juggalo Express LLC alleged that the group’s large hatchetman logo on his truck caused a state trooper to detain him in Tennessee, suspecting that he was in a criminal gang.
A second plaintiff alleged he was told by an Army recruiting sergeant that his Juggalo tattoos were considered to be gang-related and had to be permanently removed or his application would be denied. And another plaintiff, an Army corporal, said his Juggalo tattoos put him in “imminent danger of suffering discipline or an involuntary discharge” from the Army.
Bruce and Utsler also alleged that the gang designation caused a concert at the Royal Oak Music Theater in Michigan to be canceled.
But the court disagreed, ruling that the Juggalos didn’t show that the FBI’s label in its gang-intelligence report had actually led to legal consequences.
“The government officials who harmed appellants were not bound by the Juggalo gang designation nor were they required to consider the 2011 NGIC report,” the court wrote. “Thus, the government officials’ actions are not the direct consequences of the Juggalo gang designation in the 2011 NGIC report, but are the product of their own independent decisionmaking.”
More than 1,000 fans of the hardcore rap group descended on Washington, DC, in September to protest the gang classification. Followers of the band rallied in front of the Lincoln Memorial and listened to a series of speakers and musicians amid clouds of marijuana smoke.
“It’s like labeling Deadheads a gang,” one Juggalo from Ohio told The Washington Post at the time. “It’s like labeling Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters a gang. If we don’t stand up for our First Amendment rights, who is next?”