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Insane Clown Posse starts a "gang" war with the Feds

21st Century Media/Digital Media First, @GraffonMu

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Insane Clown Posse is hoping to deal a "Mighty Death Pop" to those who consider the group's fans, the Juggalos, a gang.

The Farmington Hills-based rap duo of Violent J (Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joey Utsler) have joined four Juggalos in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who classified the Juggalos as "a loosely affiliated hybrid gang" in the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. The suit, filed Wednesday, Jan. 8, in U.S. Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, charges that the designation is wrong and without merit and should be removed.

"We're not a gang," Shaggy 2 Dope said during a press conference Wednesday at the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan's Detroit office. "We're a family -- a diverse group of men and women united by our love of music, and nothing more. We're not a threat, a public menace or a danger to society...and it's time the FBI recognizes that.

"We will prevail in this fight to clear the Juggalo family name, because not to would be bulls***."

The ACLU is representing the Juggalos in the case, while the Bloomfield Hills law firm Hertz Schram P.C. is representing ICP.

Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope acknowledged Wednesday that merchandise sales have dropped considerably since 2011, as has attendance at concerts -- including the group's annual Gathering of the Juggalos summer festival, which lost more than $700,000 this year and will be relocated from Cave-In-Rock, Ill., where it's been held since 2007, to what Violent J said would be a "smaller" venue for 2014. Retail chains have also stopped carrying ICP music and merchandise, he added.

"This affects everything about our business, every aspect of it," Violent J noted. "It taints our entire legacy and just dumps on it.

"When the (gang) label first come out, I laughed at it. I had no idea how much it would affect us. Now it's like a growing disease. It's affecting everything ICP does. We're going to fight this to the death, 'cause it's not true. It's stupid. It's ridiculous."

Brandon Bradley from California, one of the four Juggalo plaintiffs in the suit, told the press conference that he had been stopped and harassed by police on multiple occasions because of his Juggalo attire and tattoos. "I never imagined being in a situation where I could be listed as a violent gang member just because of my T-shirt," Bradley said. "The idea that my photo is in a police database marking me as a gang member is scary."

Hertz Schram filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in September of 2011, and attorney Howard Hertz said that the firm received 102 pages of documents from the FBI, "mainly newspaper articles" about the band and the Juggalos. Hertz said another FOIA filed by Muck Rock uncovered "inconsistent and conflicting documents from the FBI...emphasizing to me a lack of transparency with respect to this issue."

Saura J. Sahu, the ACLU's cooperating attorney from the firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, added that "this (gang) designation is having real impact on real Juggalo music fans across the country," adding that another of the plaintiffs, Scott Gandy, was told he couldn't enlist in the U.S. Army because of his Juggalo tattoo. Sahu said he's confident ICP and the Juggalos will win the suit.

"The basic point...is really clear, to overturn this excessive and overbroad gang designation," Sahu explained. "We want the Justice Department to sop the harassment of these folks who have been suffering for over two years now....people who had nothing to do with any criminal gang and are simply exercising their First Amendment right to identify themselves as Juggalos. We're hoping we will win back their right to be left alone."

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