Fans of music group labeled gang members - 8 News NOW

Fans of music group labeled gang members

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Brandon Nicholson Brandon Nicholson
LAS VEGAS -- Followers of the group, Insane Clown Posse, call themselves Juggalos. The FBI has classified Juggalos as a gang, but fans say they are being unfairly targeted.
The gang classification is controversial. An attorney for Insane Clown Posse says there's about a million fans, and a tiny percentage may be involved in crime. Brandon Nicholson nicknamed "Spanky" calls himself a Juggalo and says the group of fans is like a family.

"We're just like everybody else," Nicholson said.

"Rolling Stone Magazine" describes the music of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope as horrorcore-rap.

"It's comedy pretty much," Nicholson said.

But the FBI calls Juggalos a gang. A 2011 FBI report on the threat of gangs, states Juggalos are rapidly expanding into many U.S. communities.

"We're not bad people," Nicholson said.

"It's not against the law to be in a gang. What's against the law is committing the crimes for the sake of the gang," said Detective Bernard Plaskett with Metro Police.

He says Juggalos who commit crimes end up in a database identified as gang members.

"They'll talk about it. They'll tell you that you know, 'hey I'm a true Juggalo, and I'll admit to that, I'm a fan, but I also participate on the gang side.' So self admittance is the strongest and the other just being associated with you know several other Juggalos who have committed crimes," Bernard said.

A police officer cannot stop someone for being a Juggalo, but if there's a traffic stop, questions will be asked, especially if they have the ICP gear and tattoos like Nicholson's.

"This was my first hatchet man," Nicholson said as he shows one of his many tattoos.

ICP and their fans claim they are unfairly targeted and they're suing the Department of Justice and the FBI for what they call an unwarranted and unlawful decision to designate a band's supporters as a gang.

The rap duo held a news conference with the ACLU in January in Detroit. They said they were not a threat, a public menace or a danger to society. They also released a statement on YouTube that discrimination of a person based on the type of music they like is un-American.
 "Now, you want to clean up the act and claim that oh, you never were a gang. You see that's bait and switch," Plaskett said.

According to the FBI report, most crimes committed by Juggalos are individualistic and often involve simple assault, drug use, and vandalism. However, a small number of Juggalos are becoming more organized and committing crimes such as felony assaults and drug sales.

Plaskett says Metro lists about 550 Juggalos as gang members in Clark County. He adds some are gangster Juggalos, but for the most part, most are not. He believes categorizing Juggalos as a gang helps provide awareness for police and the community.

"You have to weigh the difference. Is that a Juggalo gang member or is that just a fan?" Plaskett said.

Nicholson says most Juggalos are about music, not crime.

"I'm a forever ICP fan."

During a traffic stop involving several friends, Nicholson said, they admitted they were Juggalos. He says police made them fill out a gang card. Looking back, he says, he shouldn't have done that.

8 News NOW could not confirm with Metro Police that Nicholson has been classified as a gang member, but Plaskett says if a person hasn't been in trouble for five years, that information is purged and they are no longer categorized as a gang member.
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