The D.C. rally that overshadowed the far right

September 20, 2017

Michael Shallal reports from Washington, D.C., on the gathering of music fans who have faced repression and victimization for nothing more than their musical preference.

SEPTEMBER 16 brought a diverse range of events to the National Mall in Washington D.C.: a Latin festival, two weddings, a pro-Trump rally sponsored by the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, a "White Supremacy out of Washington, D.C." counterdemonstration.

But the main event was the Juggalo March on Washington starting at the Lincoln Memorial--and it had the kind of security typically seen on Inauguration Day, with D.C.'s main avenues closed down and garbage trucks blocking roadways entering the National Mall.

The Juggalo March was called in response to a 2011 FBI report that classified fans of the music group Insane Clown Posse (ICP), known as Juggalos (or Juggalettes for female-identified people), as a "hybrid gang" based on reports of "petty crime," with possibilities of more organized crime in some states.

"Juggalos have often been the subject of parody, but we cannot dismiss their treatment as a joke," wrote the Metro D.C. chapter of Democratic Socialists of America in a statement. "Juggalos who display ICP logos or other fan markers have been detained by police, subjected to harassment, lost custody of their children and more."

Joining together in the Juggalo March on Washington
Joining together in the Juggalo March on Washington (Michael Shallal)

ICP IS a hip-hop duo that formed in 1989 and rose in popularity at the same time as Kid Rock and Eminem, all based on a combination of rock and rap and all based out of the Detroit area.

Its dedicated fans are known for rowdy concerts and love of face paint, but form a working-class, anti-establishment and community-based culture that provides a home for "the outcasts, misfits and fuckups in high school, considered too ugly or freakish to sit at the cool kids' table," as Adam Theron-Lee Rensch wrote at Jacobin.

ICP doesn't have a lot of explicitly political songs, although "The Rebel Flag" talks about beating up bigots and burning the Confederate Flag. Mainly, the group and its fans speak to a section of mostly white have-nots alienated from mainstream society who find community together.

But they have been targeted and victimized by law enforcement, and the FBI in particular--similar to how Marilyn Manson or heavy metal were demonized and said to promote violence and crime.

The Juggalo/ette event was an all-day affair, starting at 1 p.m. with a rally and speakers who included ICP's two members Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. It ended with a nighttime ICP performance in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

The onstage speeches didn't single out Trump, but were very anti-government, particularly against law enforcement and the FBI. ICP's two members talked about social acceptance and condemned violations of freedom of expression and people's rights--singling out for criticism those who oppose same-sex marriage, for example.

In the crowd, there were a range of signs reading "Faygo not fascism" (Faygo is a soda from a Detroit-based maker popular with ICP fans), "Solidarity forever," "Fuck hate" and "Black Juggalos Matter," as well as plenty of anti-Trump signs.

There were hopes among some D.C. anti-fascist activists that the ICP march would confront the pro-Trump rally organized by Patriot Prayer, but while some individual activists were part of the Juggalo crowd, there was no visible anti-fascist contingent, and no confrontation with the right-wingers materialized.

What did take place was a show of solidarity among predominantly working-class people who have become targets of law enforcement and the government for no other reason than their musical preferences and love of face paint.

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