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12 August 2012

Insane Clown Posse & 13th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos / it's a freedom party / it's a gang / Whoop-Whoop!

Click photo to enlarge.

The Detroit Free Press
(daily broadsheet, Detroit, Michigan USA)
Sunday 12 August 2012

8000 Insane Clown Posse fans
party hard in rural Illinois

by Brian McCollum
Detroit Free Press Pop Music Writer

CAVE-IN-ROCK, Illinois --
One is a convenience store manager from Colorado, another an unemployed electrician from Michigan. One is a high-school single mom in Ohio.

Together, they say -- their voices often cracking, arms dotted with goose bumps -- they are family.

•More photos: The Free Press is blogging on Instagram from The Gathering; follow along with @freepent on Instagram and Twitter or go to to see the pictures!

At the 13th Gathering of the Juggalos, which started Wednesday and wraps up today [Sunday] at a campground near this dot on the map by the Ohio River, they've arrived about 8000 strong, seeking community and celebrating the world of Detroit rap group Insane Clown Posse.

Since starting as an impromptu fan convention in Novi in 2000, the Gathering has evolved into a bucket-list event for ICP fans -- part summer pilgrimage, part family reunion for thousands from across the country.

"First time here," said one young Ohio man. "First time home."

After "whoop-whoop!" -- the incessant greeting of Juggalos at the fest -- the word you hear most here is "family." These fans will tell you straight up: They are society's outcasts, the put-upon, the bullied. They grew up wearing hand-me-downs. They listen to music mocked by the mainstream.

With its booming rap music, raucous wrestling events, nude flashing, drug trade, street-fighting contests and Faygo pop drenching, the Gathering is their solace. Here, they wear shirts declaring "Proud To Be A Fat Kid" and soak up the flirting they can't always get on the outside. Food is shared, acts of kindness doled out.

"We're here because we were all jokes growing up," said a 34-year-old Florida fan who calls herself Joei Terrifyin'. "They gave us a place to be loved, to fit in."

Nick Pool of Kentucky calls himself a "real redneck country son of a bitch."

"This is the one place I can be who I want to be," he said. "We ain't the rich class. We are who we are. We're people. We're just different."

This is ICP's handiwork: the vivid culmination of a vision honed two decades ago by a pair of high school dropouts from Oak Park. With their tight-knit, faithful Juggalo community, ICP's Violent J (Joe Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joey Utsler) have fostered what just might be the last organic subculture in modern America.

"Here, they find a family that will accept them no matter what they look like," said David Dunagan, a bearded, braided ICP fan from Arizona. "It makes them go, 'I'm so comfortable with me, I can do anything.' "

Fans are well acquainted with the skepticism of onlookers such as Al Kovacs, 63, of South Lyon, who wrote the Free Press to remark on the Gathering.

"I'm looking at the pictures of a scruffy mob of pariahs," he said. "These outcasts represent a growing core of what young America is today."

Kovacs described the Gathering as the end point of '60s culture: "My generation gave rise to chilling events that evolved into the disturbing actions and approaches of today."

Freedom and derision

The Gathering is a distinctive stew of spirits: the counterculture air of a Grateful Dead show, the assertive freedom of a biker rally, the open insouciance of a nudist colony, all laced with ICP's comic-book, horror-show imagery. It's a self-contained dollop of anarchism in the hills of southeastern Illinois near the state's border with Kentucky.

"There's a lot of freedom going on here that you don't see at other festivals," said Farris Haddad, an attorney for ICP.

On a late night at the Gathering, fire dancers abruptly emerge in the crowd before disappearing into the night. Water bottles hurtle overhead as '90s-vintage hip-hop plays from the main stage. Heavy drugs are sold and bartered as enterprising fans peddle cigarettes, liquor shots and custom apparel. Impromptu parties at campsites spring up all night.

The outside world has become weirdly fascinated by it all, looking on curiously, derision ready at hand. ICP's colorful infomercials have become "Saturday Night Live" parodies, and Gathering photos turn into online viral hits. The fest draws a heavy presence from New York's hip alternative media, including Village Voice and Vice magazine.

At a seminar Friday, a sympathetic Violent J reminded fans that they make an easy target for the establishment because "everything about ICP and Juggalos is a joke to the mainstream world."

The Juggalos aren't laughing, however. ICP announced Friday that it will sue the FBI for designating Juggalos as a gang -- a move that the group says has hurt its multimillion-dollar merchandise sales and spurred police harassment of fans.

Juggalos say the labeling is unfair. "What we're doing here isn't harmful," said Dunagan. "People aren't dying."

Brazen and vigilant

Outside the fest site -- a private campground -- country roads teemed with law-enforcement vehicles. 15 festgoers were arrested en route to the event Wednesday, most on drug offenses, the local sheriff told the Free Press. Paramedics said one fan was flown to a hospital after overdosing and was in intensive care Friday night. 

Two other helicopter evacuations followed Saturday. Fans were vigilant: The medical helicopters may have helped spawn rumors of a Department of Homeland Security flyby, and fears that the Gathering would be raided persisted through the weekend. There's an ever-present edginess to the Gathering, the sense that anything could happen, for good or ill. Schedules are loose, and Thursday night was marked by no-shows, including headline rappers DMX and the Game.

At the fan-christened "Drug Bridge" at the campground's center, peddlers lined the path, offering an assortment of wares to all comers: marijuana, ecstasy, LSD, prescription pills. Elsewhere around the site, drugs were pitched by megaphone: "We've got rolls! We've got molly! We've got liquid acid!"

There are standards at the Gathering: The Drug Bridge was closed at least once by festival staff, and adult film star Ron Jeremy was kicked off the site late Thursday for an unnamed transgression.

Beyond the Drug Bridge, the Gathering vibe is less dangerous than mischievous. Members of one group of teenage fans vowed that, come hell or high water, they were going home with the main-stage banners in their trunks.

Still, for even experienced rock festivalgoers, the fan brazenness at the Gathering can be jarring. One security guard lamented that many new attendees are "coming now just for the drugs."

Some Juggalos have dubbed them the "Dirty Dirties" and say a division is taking root among the fan base.

Jacqui Aruda, 27, of Boston was in high school when she realized her love of ICP made her a target for classmates' mockery.

" 'Oh, you listen to the clown people, the 40-year-old men in makeup,' " she remembers them saying. "But ICP's message is about family, about getting rid of those entities in the world that are bad. And we're the problem?"

She and other Juggalos are on guard and eager to keep the sense of community intact.

"The more newbies that are coming in, the more mainstream it's getting, the more we're getting of those who don't understand it," said Aruda. "Family has never been more needed than now."

More Details: Follow the festival

Free Press Pop Music Writer Brian McCollum and photographer Romain Blanquart are at the 13th Gathering of the Juggalos.

The annual festival celebrating the world of Insane Clown Posse is being held this year at Cave-In-Rock in rural southern Illinois.

You can read additional reports about happenings at the event at

Also check and watch /thegatheringphotos for Instagram pictures.

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The Rolling Stone
weekly magazine USA
Saturday 11 August 2012

Insane Clown Posse
to Sue FBI
Over Gang Designation

Horrorcore duo announce legal action
at Gathering of the Juggalos

by Miriam Coleman

Insane Clown Posse plan to sue the FBI
over what the rappers claim is an unfair designation of their fans as gang members, Spin reports. During the ICP Seminar at the 2012 Gathering of the Juggalos, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope announced to some 1,500 fans that they would be demanding that the FBI remove them from the gang list.

Last November, the agency released its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report, designating a section to Juggalos and referring to the ICP-loving subculture as "a loosely-organized hybrid gang."

"Although recognized as a gang in only four states, many Juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence," the document says. "Law enforcement officials in at least 21 states have identified criminal Juggalo sub-sets, according to [National Gang Intelligence Center] reporting." The report goes on to note 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."

"Let's get this straight, a Juggalo is not a gang member," Violent J said in an interview with Vice. "Consider a Juggalo that, 15 years ago, got a hatchet man tattoo or something. Now they've got a family, they're working in real estate or something, and they're driving home and get a speeding ticket. Next thing you know, he's in the gang file, and that will be taken into consideration in any trial. Suddenly, it ain't just somebody who fucked up, it's a gang member that fucked up, and they're getting a heavier sentence."

To help build their case against the FBI, Insane Clown Posse and their label, Psychopathic Records, have launched the website, where they will be seeking testimony from Juggalos who feel their rights have been violated as a result of their affiliation.

"We want to show our appreciation and support for our fans and we are prepared to assist you in learning about your legal rights and to fight for you in Court, if possible," a statement on the website says.

Read more:
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