The U. S. Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have classified fans of the rock/rap, and sometimes called horrorcore, group Insane Clown Posse as criminal gang members. No joke.
Poor taste is about the only thing prosecutors could charge Clown fans with. If that were a crime, most of the people in the country would be locked up.
Overzealous prosecutors continue to notch their belts with trumped up gang association and conspiracy charges. This month, Clown Posse filed suit against the Justice Department and FBI, saying that the government had violated its constitutional rights and made an “unwarranted and unlawful decision” to classify fans of the band, who calls themselves Juggalos, as criminal gang members.
The ACLU joined the lawsuit, after Juggalos were detained by police, denied employment, and rejected by the Army because the government considered their tattoos gang-affiliated.
Juggalos often paint their faces to look like clowns. The FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center called them a “loosely organized hybrid gang,'' whose members were infiltrating communities. Sounds like a scene from Reefer Madness or the 1950s' Red Scare.
For the record: There's no evidence that Insane Clown Posse fans constitute a criminal enterpirse – any more than did the Dead Heads who followed the Grateful Dead for decades. Which doesn't mean, of course, that a few individual fans haven't committed crimes.
In Ohio, local prosecutors can charge someone with participating in a criminal gang, a second- degree felony punishable by two to eight years in prison -- a bit that can be added to other sentences and charges. That's potentially abusive, too.
What prosecutors fail to get is that the problem is violence –– not gangs, most of which in Toledo are relatively innocuous and don't end up on police blotters.
Nebulous gang association charges enable prosecutors to go on fishing expeditions. People don't worry about it until they get netted themselves, maybe after the FBI designates the fans of their favorite band, singer, choir, or rapper as criminal gang members.