New Castle News

August 18, 2012

Josh Drespling: Like music? It might be gang related

Josh Drespling
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Next time you buy an album by your favorite band or purchase the hottest selling book, be warned — you may be considered a gang member.

If you wear the same T-shirt, same colors and have meetings of like-minds, you may just find yourself on next year’s FBI Gang Threat Assessment list.

Years ago, the Grateful Dead had a legion of diehard fans that developed their own lifestyle and followed the band as they criss-crossed the country. They wore the signature garb and typically reeked of Petroli oil or marijuana — and often times both. Maybe they should have been persecuted for their musical taste, but to label them as a gang and a threat to the average citizen would be an outrageous assumption, let alone a wildly broad generalization.

Unfortunately, the same mindset that we would consider inappropriate in the previous scenario is the seed of a current situation facing the infamous rap group Insane Clown Posse. The over the top, cartoon nightmares of the Detroit horror-core group have been labeled as gang activity.  Yes, a musical group who has sold millions upon millions of albums and was once part of the Disney Corp. have been firmly placed in the cross-hairs of the FBI.

The band and its fans have been lumped together with The Aryan Brotherhood, Bloods and Crips. According to a 2011 report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Juggalos, as the fans of ICP are known, “are a loosely-organized hybrid gang” and are “forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity.”

I will admit that there are a certain members of the Juggalo community who function below the line of dignity and honesty. There also has been a level of unruly and even criminal behavior, but nothing that rises to the level of organized crime, drug trafficking and gun running as proposed by the FBI's report.

Our government officials have had trouble differentiating between terrorists and law-abiding citizens in our nation’s airports. Now it seems that they are having difficulty separating what is a teenage musical fad and hardened criminal activity. Additionally, four states have adopted the belief that Juggalos are a gang based on the FBI's report, thus turning a band T-shirt into gang material. If you wore an Insane Clown Posse T-shirt while on probation or parole you would be in violation of the terms of your release in some circumstances. Yes, in America you could be sent back to prison for wearing a certain T-shirt.

You can hate the band and their fans for being outcasts. You can dis the band about their musical style or claim that they are talentless hacks, but to discriminate against any subset of misunderstood outsiders would be criminal. The Juggalos are a family, a close-knit group who look out for one another and have an impressive amount of loyalty. This devotion is perhaps what startles authorities. After all, humans live in fear of what they don’t understand and destroy what they don’t comprehend.

Believing that this is a gang is much like believing the earth is flat and that at the edge of the sea are great creatures that will devour your ship. Much like the conviction that other people’s system of beliefs are bad and only you have grasp the golden ring of enlightenment.

To remedy the situation, the Insane Clown Posse and their record label have announced they have lawyered-up and are entertaining the idea of suing the FBI. They have also launched the website, which is dedicated to providing legal support to “anyone who have suffered any negative consequence from a government representative, including law enforcement, border patrol, airline security, or other local, state and federal government agencies or employee as a result of your status as a Juggalo.” All the service are being offered free of charge.

Joe Bruce of the group said, “At first I thought this was a joke and I laughed about it.” He went on to explain how he felt that the stigma attached to them from this could destroy everything they have built over the last 20 years. He also stated, “We are doing this to let the Juggalos know that we care. If we don't do anything about it, five years from now, Juggalos will not be known as this family of love who stands against fashion and trends and does its own thing — it will be known as a gang.”

“We are doing the only American thing we can do, sue!” added Joe Utsler, also of the band.

I would like to quote one of the biggest gang leaders of all time (by FBI standards) by asking, can “we give peace a chance?”  And remember, Sheetz sells Faygo, so don't buy any or you might be gang related.