Article by John Zangas, Livestreams by Rachael Scheinman and Alejandro Alvarez, Video by Jesus Guerreros AV
Federal law enforcement’s labeling of Juggalos as a “gang” prompted a gathering of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial Saturday–not only to enjoy music and share stories, but to speak out against harassment and discrimination.
Juggalos inhabit a subculture united by music, outrageous clothing, clown-like make-up and a taste for Faygo. They are anti-authoritarian, outsiders, and self-confessed misfits who emphasize acceptance, tolerance and letting it all hang out. They celebrate being part of a closely knit community they call “family.”
Juggalo March co-host Kevin Gill railed against an FBI National Gang Threat Assessment (NGTA) report of 2011, which was released to law enforcement agencies and designated the Juggalos as a gang. “The first amendment protects the creative expression of music artists and the right of the fans to hear it,” he said. “The Juggalo March is like the Boston Tea Party for fans of music, free speech, creativity, and expression.”
Gill peppered his opening remarks with choice words describing the “oppressive” nature of law enforcement crackdown on Juggalo members, based on their tattoos and culture.
He pointed out that NWA, The Grateful Dead, and other music groups have survived first amendment rights scrutiny, and he promised that Juggalos would survive too.
“If the Juggalos are a gang, then the Grateful Dead are the mother f***ing OGs of that sh**!” he said, as calls of “That’s bull**it!” went up from the crowd.
The FBI gang designation stems from the NGTA report which was circulated among law enforcement agencies across the country. In the report, Juggalos were identified as a “hybrid gang” based on alleged “sporadic, disorganized, individualistic” crimes of individuals within the group.
According to the report, “most crimes committed by Juggalos… often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism.”
As a result of the NGTA designation, Juggalos say they are experiencing discrimination and harassment. Many speakers related how they had been harassed at traffic stops, lost their jobs, or had been discharged from and/or rejected from entering the military due to their Juggalo affiliation. The Armed Forces have strict guidelines on allowing service members to wear tattoos that are affiliated with gangs.
Others said they had experienced difficulties finding employment and freedom of movement. Several mothers said they were separated from their children for being labeled as members of a gang.
Following the rally, Juggalos lined up and walked down Constitution Avenue toward the Washington Monument. They passed the Trump M.O.A.R rally (Mother of All Rallies) happening at the same time, but there were no confrontations, incidents or arrests reported.