Filed under: Editorials, Repression, US
Fans of the band Insane Clown Posse (ICP), referred to as Juggalos, have been targets of state repression since being designated a “hybrid gang” by the FBI in 2011. The band’s logo, frequently called a “hatchetman,” has been deemed a gang symbol. This has resulted in harassment by local and federal police for having an ICP sticker or tattoo. Juggalos have been fired from employment, have been discriminated against in custody battles, have received longer and harsher sentences in court, and have been discharged from military service. The American Civil Liberties Union and ICP have been fighting this designation in court since 2014. So far, the courts have ruled that the FBI gang report should not be used as a reason to target Juggalos. However, this ruling is often ignored by law enforcement and it does nothing to hold the FBI accountable for the damage it has done.
While a diverse range of people enjoy the music and fandom of ICP, Juggalos are typically working class people living in poverty. Cultural treatment of Juggalos has ranged from mocking to fearful, leading many people to assume Juggalos are undereducated, and possibly dangerous. In part because of this, and in part because of mainstream media’s lack of representation, the gang designation of the Juggalos was not really picked up as an issue for left-leaning activists until fairly recently. This is a particularly personal matter within the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), as we have members who are Juggalos. Juggalos are often mocked by mainstream society; however, we value our fellow workers and take each others’ struggles seriously.
The manner in which the Juggalos were informed of the gang designation was nothing short of state terrorism:
We were very in a very isolated area, 30 minutes up a mountain with no phone service. They announced the gang designation near the end of the gathering and helicopters started circling. We started hearing that people were getting pulled over trying to exit the area. Organizers lined people up in a tent and took their statements about being harassed by police in the secluded area. You used to never see cops on the Gathering of the Juggalo (GOTJ) grounds except to just come in and make a quick arrest and then leave, but since being labeled a gang there have been police on the grounds every year, cops on horses outside of venues, and even rumors of under covers.
We must understand that to this day, Juggalos are targeted for having and wearing band merchandise: pins, stickers, tattoos, and necklace charms. This is just one more way state repression affects our members, and we should offer solidarity, not jokes.
With recent events raising the profile of the Juggalo community, many activists are beginning to realize how the government’s being capable of labeling a group a “gang” without any accountability or due process is an important issue for revolutionaries to engage in.
Most Juggalos identify as apolitical. Some lean left, others right. We still believe that the March on Washington to protest the gang designation is an issue we should support. Repression targeting a working-class subculture, and setting a dangerous precedent of casting wide nets, has to be challenged. An injury to one is an injury to all.
Marching with the Juggalos is a way we can demonstrate our solidarity with fellow working class people. It creates a bridge to support Juggalos in other issues that we hold dear, such as workplace organizing, community organizing, and fighting the prison-industrial complex. Juggalos have had reasons to stick together and “circle the wagons,” being wary of people outside of “the Family.” But we believe by standing with them now, we can begin to build bridges of trust and cooperation. We recognize that trust is earned, and we are dedicated to showing that support through our actions.
We want to acknowledge that while there are themes in ICP’s music we support (anti-racism, anti-elitism, anti-classism), there are also problematic aspects such as misogyny and homophobia. We want to show solidarity to the Juggalos doing work around these things, and around toxic masculinity generally, while also remembering that not everyone has access to help or experience working through these issues as we do. Juggalos can teach us new things about family and mutual aid—and we can teach them new things about consent and power dynamics. Through a compassionate exchange of information, we can emerge as comrades. Struggalo Circus is a community doing that groundwork now. It contains Juggalos and members of IWW, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Degenderettes, Stand Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), and more.
The Juggalo March on Washington DC is scheduled for September 16, 2017. Planning for the march began a year ago, and it has a specific agenda of protesting state repression against Juggalos.
We call on branches and members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), General Defense Committee (GDC), and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) to support Juggalos in DC on September 16th by promoting the march, helping raise awareness about state repression, sharing news and updates online, helping with jail support and promoting fundraisers that have been vetted, filming cops who may be harassing Juggalos, and asking other organizations to write, adopt, or sign on to this or another statement of solidarity with Juggalos.
We additionally ask branches and members of the IWW, GDC, and IWOC locals to respect and support Juggalos’ wishes to separate the Juggalo message from the Trump march that will be happening on the same day. Juggalos are already being targeted, and some may have priors or warrants. They are trying to stop state repression against themselves, and we should strive to protect their interests and avoid intentionally causing them additional unwanted conflict. There will be a free concert at the end of the march, and we encourage IWW, GDC, and IWOC members to be careful to not contribute to getting the concert shut down.
Defend the Union! Defend the Family! Defend the Class!
General Defense Committee and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)