Fuck the police! And the FBI!: “What’s Left?” May 2013, MRR #360

Where were you in 82?

In February, 1982, Youth Brigade, TSOL, The Adolescents, Wasted Youth, Social Distortion, and the Blades played at the Hollywood Bowl, a show produced by Better Youth Organization. Close to 4,000 people attended. At times, there were three distinct pits going; a regular hardcore punk pit, a skinhead pit, and a Suicidal Tendencies pit. The bandana-wearing Suicidal punks were particularly aggro, both in the show and on the streets afterwards, getting drunk, doing drugs, creating mayhem, causing violence. As transient and prone to petty crime as these crews of Suicidals were, the LAPD considered them extreme pains in the ass, more so than the hardcore punk groups and on a par with the skinhead gangs of the day.

Not that the police had officially designated any of these groupings as street gangs per se, equivalent to the Crips or the Bloods. Thanks to Rodney Bingenheimer, whose LA radio show “Rodney on the ROQ” popularized punk rock throughout southern California, punk was huge by 1982, indeed international, with many millions of fans. Punk had penetrated everywhere; musically, philosophically, artistically/aesthetically, literarily, socially, etc. By the end of the 1970s and the early 1980s, the skinhead subculture had taken a turn towards white power, as well as towards gang-style organizing, which earned it the attention of various law enforcement agencies, among them the FBI. In turn, the punk counterculture had responses of its own—to excessive drug use within punk and to racist skinheads on the periphery of punk. In Boston, musician and filmmaker Elgin James formed a hardcore punk crew dedicated to two principles; anti-drug straightedge preaching and kicking racist skinhead and neo-Nazi ass out of the punk scene. Called, alternately, “Friends Stand United” or “Forever Stand United,” this group was commonly known as “Fuck Shit Up.” FSU for short. FSU provided a zealous following that established chapters across the United States, Canada and northeast England around the charismatic leadership of James, a quintessential gang structure that lead the FBI to officially declare FSU a street gang. This was all temporary and short-lived. FSU splintered, then disintegrated, and James was arrested, then imprisoned. The 1980s youth rebellion was not quite as expansive as in the 1960s, but it was impressive nevertheless, incapable of being limited by the powers-that-be with declarations of illegality.

In NYC during the 1960s, the Dada-inspired, but ephemeral anarchist affinity group Up Against The Wall, Motherfucker (UATW/MF) described itself as a “street gang with analysis.” Concurrently, the more substantial Puerto Rican Young Lords street gang got Leninist politics to become the Young Lords Party, promptly to be hounded by the FBI and its CoIntelPro. NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitudes), a Compton, LA hip hop/rap group, received a letter from the FBI in 1988 essentially advising the group to cease and desist by warning that “advocating violence and assault is wrong and we in the law enforcement community take exception to such action.” Gangsta rap developed a complicated relationship with various street gangs, not to mention the FBI, at the time. The FBI has taken all of this to entirely new levels of fascism. And I do not use the term “fascism” here lightly.

A sub subgenre of hip hop/rap formed around the white duo of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope calling itself the Insane Clown Posse in the late 1980s. Along with other musical acts associated with the Psychopathic Record label, this style of rock music, also termed rap rock or horror rap, had managed to garner over a million dedicated followers without earning any radio airplay whatsoever. In 2011, the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center published a report entitled “National Gang Threat Assessment,” subtitled “Emerging Trends.” In that document, the FBI identified the followers of the Insane Clown Posse as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang.” These youngsters, and they are mostly youngsters, dress up in clown makeup, carry around toy hatchets, and call themselves Juggalos (or Juggalettes if female) or, generically, ninjaz. It is crucial to get the flavor of the FBI’s indictment by innuendo here, so I’m going to quote the section of the report on Juggalos in full:

Juggalos

The Juggalos, a loosely-organized hybrid gang, are rapidly expanding into many US communities. Although recognized as a gang in only four states, many Juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence. Law enforcement officials in at least 21 states have identified criminal Juggalo sub-sets, according to NGiC reporting.*

• NGiC reporting indicates that Juggalo gangs are expanding in New Mexico primarily because they are attracted to the tribal and cultural traditions of the Native Americans residing nearby.

Most crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism. However, open source reporting suggests that a small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity, such as felony assaults, thefts, robberies, and drug sales. Social networking websites are a popular conveyance for Juggalo sub-culture to communicate and expand.

• In January 2011, a suspected Juggalo member shot and wounded a couple in King County, Washington, according to open source reporting.

Juggalos’ disorganization and lack of structure within their groups, coupled with their transient nature, makes it difficult to classify them and identify their members and migration patterns. Many criminal Juggalo sub-sets are comprised of transient or homeless individuals, according to law enforcement reporting. Most Juggalo criminal groups are not motivated to migrate based upon traditional needs of a gang. However, law enforcement reporting suggests that Juggalo criminal activity has increased over the past several years and has expanded to several other states. Transient, criminal Juggalo groups pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature.

• In January 2010, two suspected Juggalo associates were charged with beating and robbing an elderly homeless man.
*Juggalos are traditionally fans of the musical group the insane Clown Posse. Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, and Utah are the only US states that recognize Juggalos as a gang.

Now, I need to make it perfectly clear, to restate Richard Nixon, that I consider the whole Insane Clown Posse’s slasher shtick idiotic, its lumpen lifestyle degenerate, its type of music stupid in the extreme, its childish spirituality asinine, and so on. Yet, to indict the Juggalos as a street gang, as the FBI does on the flimsiest of evidence in its report, is a terrifying abuse of federal power and authority. On the trumped up evidence presented by the FBI quoted above, virtually anyone associated with the 1960s hippie and the 1980s punk countercultures would be accused of, and no doubt convicted of, being in a street gang. And so Violent J is correct to contend that it is the first time in the history of music in general and rocknroll in particular that the followers of a type of rock music, those who listen to a specific kind of music, have been declared members of a gang, thus criminalizing them for what they listen to, what they wear, what tattoos they get, thus attempting to eliminate the Insane Clown Posse, Psychopathic Records, and their Juggalo fans.

The Insane Clown Posse has taken the step of filing a lawsuit against the FBI for withholding information as to why it put Juggalos on the National Gang Threat Assessment list in 2011. In addition, ICP has formed a legal defense fund at JuggalosFightBack.com where fans can get legal help for free against FBI and law enforcement harassment. I urge all of you reading this to support their efforts, no matter how inane you think the ICP and its music are. Further, I recommend that you push civil liberties organizations like the ACLU to get involved on behalf of the ICP against the FBI. Finally, I hope you as punks stand up for your own rights against the FBI and the cops in this time of increased police militarization and federal encroachment. To paraphrase the famous Martin-Niemöller quote, and thereby somewhat mangle its spirit in the process:

First they came for the Juggalos, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Juggalo…

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