Fans of the hardcore hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse -- dubbed the "Juggalos" -- have lost an appeal to not be labeled as a gang by the FBI.
A 2011 FBI report on gang intelligence called the Juggalos "a loosely-organized hybrid gang" whose members had committed "individualistic" and "sporadic" crimes, according to The Washington Post. The report said their overall trend of "gang-like criminal activity" was rising and that law enforcement should be wary of them.
The ICP frontmen and several of their fans, whose characteristic black-and-white face paint and symbol of a man with a hatchet distinguish them, said they've faced legal troubles related to the FBI's classification. The band's frontmen are Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, better known by their stage names, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope.
The band's two members said their constitutional rights were violated when law enforcement asked a venue to cancel their appearance, supposedly as a result of the criminal activity suggested in the report. The concert was called off.
Two Juggalos said they'd gotten in trouble with police because of their fandom. One of them, according to the New York Post, said he was detained on suspected gang activity by a Tennessee state trooper for having the group's logo on the side of his truck.
Another two fans alleged that their military careers were threatened. One of them was reportedly told he would not be allowed to join unless he removed his Juggalo tattoos. The other, an Army corporal, said he was told his tattoos put him in "imminent danger of suffering discipline or an involuntary discharge."
The fans and band filed a lawsuit to scrub the gang-related language from the FBI report in 2014. That case was lost and then appealed, and was then seen in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit on Dec. 18.
"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," read the court document.
The court denied their appeal on the basis that the 2011 designation was not a "final agency action," meaning members of law enforcement are not required to abide by it and that it can't be challenged in court. The court also ruled that any threats the plaintiffs had received had failed to culminate in legal consequences, The Washington Post reports.
"It’s like labeling Deadheads a gang," said Amie Puterbaugh to The Washington Post at a September protest against the gang label. "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?"