If the FBI can label rapping clown enthusiasts as a “criminal gang”, with very real consequences for those identified as members, they can do the same to any subculture. Imagine being denied parole because your black clothing and vegan anarchist literature indicate a “gang affiliation”. Vice explains:
Every year, the FBI releases its National Gang Threat Assessment List, which examines “emerging gang trends and threats posed by criminal gangs.” In 2011, Juggalos were added to the list. You already know about Juggalos, those zany, slap-happy, face-painted faygo-swillers who have made the Insane Clown Posse their religion.
Well, ICP is about to start fighting back, and they’re reacting by suing the FBI. Although currently only considered a gang in four states, law enforcement in 21 states have identified and logged criminal Juggalo subsets. In those states, if an ICP fan is on probation, and he or she wears an ICP hat to a parole meeting, that’s a violation of probation for wearing gang apparel.
“A Juggalo is not a gang member,” [says ICP’s Violent J]. “Consider a Juggalo that, 15 years ago, got a hatchet man tattoo or something. Now they’ve got a family…and they’re driving home and get a speeding ticket. Next thing you know, he’s in the gang file, and that will be taken into consideration in any trial. Suddenly, it ain’t just somebody who fucked up, it’s a gang member who fucked up, and they’re getting a heavier sentence.”
Violent J explained how the FBI’s ruling has affected ICP’s business in a major way: “When we made that list, stores like Hot Topic stopped carrying our shit because they don’t want to be selling gang apparel.”