Until about a month ago, I had never heard of the Insane Clown Posse.

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Juggalo March on Washington on March 17. Photo: Polly Peters
Juggalo March on Washington on March 17. Photo: Polly Peters

Until about a month ago, I had never heard of the Insane Clown Posse.  I am neither a rap nor a metal music enthusiast.  I can’t even remember how the band Insane Clown Posse came up, but my husband Googled some images of their followers, and I was intrigued. I am a divorce lawyer.   I find people to be interesting and I learned that everyone has his or her own story.   I  just had a feeling there were some interesting stories behind that face paint and weird outfits.    

Washington was awash with protestors on September 16, 2017,  full of citizens exercising the variety of rights we are given by the First Amendment.  At the Mall, there was a small Pro-Trump march, and  an Anti-Trump protest at the White House.   Fiesta D.C. had their parade of Latin American traditional dancers and musicians marching down Constitution Avenue.  Finally,  Juggalos at the Lincoln Memorial.   It seemed a typical Sunday in Washington.  

When I learned Juggalos were coming to Washington for a protest, there was not much of a chance I would stay away.  The reason for their protest:  the FBI had listed the Juggalos and Juggalettes as a gang (on the same list as the Bloods and MS13) .  Apparently, a few Juggalos had committed crimes; thus criminals were Juggaos, so local law enforcement attributed the crimes to the organization seemingly without any evidence of collusion.  The FBI says it relies on reports from local law enforcement and here we have it.  

Photo: Polly Peters

To say being perceived as a gang member causes negative consequences is an understatement.  Speakers at the rally lost custody of children, were fired due to a Juggalo tattoo, and have been denied admittance to the military.  Today, Juggalos are baffled and angered at being labeled a gang.  They cannot see how anyone can distinguish them from other groups of “misfits” who followed bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish.  There was a lot of “whoop, whoop” chants which is a general greeting — if something is good or bad, to say hello or goodbye . After each speaker, the crowd  chanted “fu_k that sh_t” (protesting the FBI/gang classification)  and repeated chants of “we are family” What was repeated over and over was that Juggalos were a family and they are being treated this way only because they are different, as one man said to me “we are redneck misfits but we are a family and  together”.

Photo: Polly Peters

The protest was at the Lincoln Memorial where I saw a group of elderly men in red shirts come down the steps.  Since they had on red shirts, I assumed they were detoured on their way to the Trump rally on the Mall.  No, put away my stereotype.  It was an organization of former POWs on a trip to DC.  I overheard the tour guide say to a group of them that they had picked an interesting weekend to come to Washington.  A red-shirted gentleman surveyed the Juggalos and their painted clown faces, listened to the “whoop, whoops” and chants of “fuck that shit”  He  got a huge smile on his face and said, “This is what we fought for.”  His friends puffed up like they were at attention, smiled and all shook their heads in agreement.  

My new Juggalo friends were exercising my favorite part of the First Amendment, which says Americans have “the right to petition the government for a redress of their grievances.”  

Headed on a search for a Metro stop on the orange line, I pondered the afternoon, compared the 2 inch diameter jingle bells on the boots of the marching Latin dancers  to the clown paint at the Memorial.  There are many reasons I am happy that Annapolis is my home.  One is that I am so close to Washington, D.C. where I can be reminded that my favorite amendment is alive and well.  

Polly Peters is an attorney from Annapolis, Maryland.

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