- Baynard Woods
The heat of 2017 has finally boiled all political chants down to their essence: "Fuck that shit!"
More than 1,000 "juggalos"—fans of the horror-art rap group the Insane Clown Posse (ICP)—chanted this refrain in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 16. Many wore clown paint or proudly sported tattoos or other signs that signified they are down with the clown.
Farris Haddad, who was introduced as "the motherfucking juggalawyer," spoke when the chant broke out for probably the fifth or sixth time. "We're talking about freaking music here," he said. "If this is allowed to stand—and so far it has been—then we definitely don't live in a free society anymore."
He was talking about the fact that the FBI designated juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang"—a 2011 distinction, which, juggalos say, has real consequences. One speaker, Jessica Bonometti, said she was fired from her job as a probation officer in Virginia because she liked ICP-related photos on her personal Facebook page. Another, Crystal Guerrero, said she lost custody of her children for going to an ICP show.
So Haddad, as juggalawyer, is trying to sue the FBI.
"The federal court in Detroit actually tried to dismiss our case twice now, saying basically that the FBI did nothing legally wrong by gang-listing thousands of normal everyday Americans," he said.
"Fuck that shit," the crowd roared back.
"That's what we said—'Fuck that shit,'" Haddad retorted.
As Haddad announced a new trial date (Oct. 11 in Cincinnati), Chris Lopez—a man with a Vandyke beard, long hair and a D.A.R.E. baseball hat—walked up and handed a sweatshirt and a sandwich to Michael Troy, who sported a suit, a red toboggan hat and a handlebar mustache.
They did not know each other.
"He's like a brother I never met before," Troy said, biting into his sandwich.
"I give sandwiches to everybody," Lopez said, opening up a cooler containing a couple dozen.
"He gave me a jacket, too, because it's gonna get cold later," Troy added.
Troy came from California on an overnight flight on Friday night and was planning to leave Sunday morning. I asked him why he felt it was worth so much trouble and money, which for most people here is scarce.
"It's my family," he responded. "Family has family's back no matter what. They are there for each other in times of need."
Maybe it was the California contingent who wore suits because a guy from Oakland who called himself "Ape" also was in a suit beneath his clown makeup. He was part of a group called Struggalo Circus, which describes itself as a "ragtag and messy coalition between radicals and juggalos."
One of Ape's comrades, a black man, carried a sign reading "Black Juggalos Matter." There weren't that many black juggalos. But, many juggalos and their supporters feel that class is at the center of the campaign against them.
"If juggalos are a gang, then why aren't individual fraternities gangs?" writer Camille Dodero said at the rally. "What's the difference between those groups and juggalos? To me ... the difference with those kids is that those kids' parents have money."
As a helicopter flew over, everyone held up their hands, shooting big ol' double birds.
"Most juggalos I know don't have parents with money," Dodero added. "In some cases, you don't even have parents."
- J.M. Giordano
- Juggalos rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 16, protesting the FBI’s designattion of them as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”
At the same time, on the other side of the National Mall, another rally was taking place. Organizers of the pro-Trump meeting disastrously dubbed it the Mother of All Rallies—even though they were significantly outnumbered by the juggalos. But with the exception of the Proud Boys, they didn't look like fraternazis with rich parents. Bikers for Trump, Three-Percenter militia guys, 4chan Kekistan shitposters and Captain America cosplayers, like juggalos, were each distinguished by their uniform. The militia guys, for instance, wore Under Armour camos and backpacks and the "Western chauvinist fraternity" Proud Boys wore black polos with yellow stripes on the collars and sleeves. And Captain America, well ...
Pretty much all the groups somehow saw themselves as "security." They were there to protect the free speech of Trumpists from the media and dreaded antifa. It was mostly just them and the press, though, so when a couple antifa activists walked up to use the portajohns, a palpable thrill went through the crowd. Finally! These speakers suck! What are we even here for! Antifa!
The activists were quickly surrounded by U.S. Park Police and then by militia guys.
As Drew Ambrogi, who works with No Justice No Pride, tried to get close to the counter-protesters, one of the militia members told him to step back. "You're not a law enforcement officer," Ambrogi said in video.
"They work for me," a Park Police officer said of the militia man.
But when Proud Boys came up looking like they wanted to fight, it seemed like the militia managed to calm them down and keep them away. None of them agreed to an interview.
That's when something kind of amazing happened. Inside this circle, one of the antifa activists named Iggy, stood and talked for nearly an hour with a leader of the militia.
"I've spent a lot of time trying to understand you guys, to understand the socialist mentality, to understand the communist mentality," the militia leader said. "To me, you guys are my brothers and sisters ... Why is there that difference? That's what I'm trying to figure out."
"It's a divide and conquer," Iggy said of the encounter. "There's not that much difference." Some antifa groups, like Redneck Revolt, have been actively reaching out to the militia groups.
"A diversity of tactics," Iggy said later, at the juggalo march where the presence of a black bloc made some people nervous. "These people, they're not fascists. They're definitely trying to distance themselves from the fascist movement."
He added that the further alienated these militia-types feel, the more likely they are to side with the fascists.
At one point, as the juggalos marched, they chanted, "One of us! One of us!"—a reference to the 1932 film Freaks. The juggalos, antifa and the militia are all freaks. All three groups are hated and feared by the average Americans—the normies. But there are still very real differences.
A couple hours later, as the juggalos marched and a black bloc of antifa activists, with their faces covered, carrying a sign that read "Whoop Whoop Fuck Nazis," it was clear the competing rallies and their attendant fashions are the essence of our spectacle-oriented politics. If you dress in black, you might be called a terrorist; if you wear clown paint or the hatchet man, chances are you'll be classified a gangster.
But if you dress in a militia uniform, the cops will likely claim you as their own.
And, we are reminded again, as protests continue in St. Louis, if you are wearing a police uniform, you can still shoot black people and walk free.
"Fuck that shit!"