U.S. appeals court reverses dismissal of hip hop duo's gang label case

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 17, 2015 2:40 PM

By Suzannah Gonzales

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court in Ohio on Thursday revived a lawsuit against federal agencies brought by members of Insane Clown Posse and fans over a federal report that labeled the hip hop duo's "Juggalo" followers as a gang.

The two members of the group and four fans alleged that their constitutional rights were violated because they were identified as a criminal gang, and they sued the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation in a federal court in Michigan.

The FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center released a congressionally mandated report in 2011 that identified Juggalos as a "hybrid gang" and included information about their criminal activity, according to a court document.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on ongoing litigation. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said it was reviewing the opinion but would have no further comment.

The Michigan-based Insane Clown Posse paint their faces to look like clowns and are known for rebellious and provocative music that includes songs such "My Axe" and "Night of the Chainsaw" that often use harsh themes and language.

The Juggalos, who the group has said are about a million strong, paint their faces to look like clowns and display a logo of a hatchet man on their clothes and jewelry.

The fans, who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit, claimed they were stopped, detained and questioned by local law enforcement in 2012 and 2013, and were or may be denied opportunities with the Army because of their Insane Clown Posse logos and tattoos, the document said.

In addition, the document said the group alleged a 2012 performance was canceled because of the federal gang designation.

Last year, the district court dismissed the suit on grounds that the Juggalos failed to show injuries suffered and that their alleged injuries were actions taken by third parties not before the court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati on Thursday reversed the district court's decision to dismiss for lack of standing and ordered that the case be considered, the document said.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Eric Walsh)