- By Spencer Ackerman
- 2:30 PM
All it took were two arrests in Utah to turn the Juggalos from much-ridiculed Insane Clown Posse fans into a nationwide gang threat.
Newly disclosed documents reveal the genesis of one of the strangest recent tales of the volatile mixture of clown makeup, youth culture, drugs and law enforcement — one that prompted a 14-month FBI investigation that was ultimately fruitless.
In 2011, the FBI curiously listed the Juggalos in its 2011 report on national gang activity. Juggalos were more than just goofy kids who sprayed themselves with soda at Insane Clown Posse festivals. In the bureau’s eyes, they were a “loosely-organized hybrid gang” that’s “forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity.” But it gave little reason for understanding the concern.
Muck Rock, a Massachusetts company that built a web tool to help journalists, activists and lawyers file Freedom of Information Act requests, sought to answer the question. Its discovery: local Utah police arrested two Juggalos on drug charges in March 2011, leading an FBI agent in Salt Lake City to open a sprawling investigation into “the structure, scope and relationships pertaining to the captioned violent street gang.”
The drugs, and the amounts of them, are unspecified in the disclosure. Nor is it clear if individuals wore Juggalo makeup at the time of their arrests.
An unnamed agent in the Salt Lake City FBI’s Safe Streets/Gang Unit wrote to his or her superior on March 15, 2011 that “Juggalo crimes” in several states included “drug sales, possession and child endangerment,” which fit a pattern of “crimes typically seen by gangs or gang members.”
“Insane Clown Posse can’t get its music on the radio,” the agent explained, “but claims to have 1 million devoted fans who call themselves ‘Juggalos’ or ‘Juggalettes,’ and sometimes paint their faces to look like wicked clowns. Some continue the dress by carrying small axes, like the cartoon hatchet man associated with the band.” Among the “recurrent themes” of the Insane Clown Posse’s music: “murder, rape and and suicide.”
The agent proposed an investigative plan to use “a variety of lawful methods” to learn more about the gang activities of the Juggalos. ‘[I]nvestigators must start with and work at length at street-level drug purchases of smaller amounts of drugs, surveillance, gang member debriefs, witness debriefs, confidential human source recruitment, and other traditional or non-sophisticated techniques,” the agent wrote.
The Salt Lake City office informed the central Washington bureau of the investigation. Seven months later, the FBI’s nationwide gang task force warned that, among other fears, “social networking websites are a popular conveyance for Juggalo sub-culture to communicate and expand.”
And yet the FBI couldn’t pin so much as a shoplifted Faygo on the Juggalos. On May 4, 2012, the Salt Lake City division “recommended the captioned cases be closed.” Next to “outlaw motorcycle gangs” “Surenos Gang Sets” and “Nortenos Blood Gang Sets”: “Juggalos.”
It remains to be seen if the FBI will continue to warn of a gang threat from the Juggalos. But the Insane Clown Posse actually sued, fruitlessly, to get the bureau to disclose the basis for investigating its fans.
“It’s cool that ICP really cares enough to hold the FBI accountable,” says Tom Nash, Muck Rock’s news editor. “They never approached us. But we’d be very interested in working with them.”