Last weekend in Washington, D.C., the juggalos — fans of the band Insane Clown Posse and their record label — marched against their criminalization. In 2011, the FBI classified the juggalos as a “hybrid gang,” meaning that their love for a particular musical act marked them as threats. Juggalos are often written off by the rest of society, but to some leftist political organizations, the march was an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity and build connections with a group of people politicized by their outcast treatment. Allison Hrabar of Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America was part of a solidarity delegation to the Juggalo March
Allison Hrabar: I am Allison Hrabar, and I am a rank-and-file member of Metro D.C. DSA.
Sarah Jaffe: This past weekend, you were part of the DSA contingent that was at the Juggalo March. Tell us about your perceptions of the march. How did it go?
Allison: It was one of my favorite days in Washington, D.C. this year. We have a lot of marches, and they have started to feel repetitive. This was a really new group of people, and it was also the friendliest group of people I have been around in a while. We showed up at 1:00 p.m. Our Faygo was gone by 1:30 p.m. We had some really great conversations with people about the march.
Sarah: You say up that marches have started to get repetitive. I would like to hear a little bit more about why this one felt different and fresh.
Allison: For one, it was a lot of people coming from outside of Washington, D.C. At a certain point, the people who are able to march are professionals who aren’t working on the weekends, or just people who might be able to afford to travel and fly in. The juggalos typically are a white, working-class movement. They really crowdfund to be able to travel when they might not be able to otherwise. Also, they have clown face paint on, which is not a normal look by the Lincoln Memorial.
Sarah: Yes, I imagine that’s not what the tourists expected.
Allison: Yes, there were some tourists who were walking up the mall from the Washington Monument towards the Lincoln Memorial. Watching them navigate through the crowd with their families was very fun.
Sarah: Give us a little background on the march, the demands and the basis for why the juggalos marched on Washington, D.C.
Allison: In 2011, the FBI classified juggalos as a loosely affiliated hybrid gang, which means that all of their fan markers became gang symbols overnight. So, if you have a hatchet man tattoo, if you have the Psychopathic Records logo on your car as a sticker, if you have photos of yourself on social media in face paint, then you are advertising yourself as a gang member in the eyes of law enforcement. As this classification happened, juggalos started to have this brought up in custody battles, and they say they were losing custody of their children. They say they were losing jobs. Basically, because they liked a certain band, that is admittedly very weird, they weren’t able to participate in life, because that has been deemed a crime.
Sarah: Any of us might have t-shirts of bands that people don’t particularly understand in our closets. Yet, these can suddenly become a marker of criminality, and this is something we don’t expect.
Allison: And a lot of people have ignored that, because this issue is sort of treated as a joke. Like, if Nickelback suddenly became a gang symbol, that would be very funny. It would also be a problem.
Sarah: We are also just not used to that happening to a group of mostly white people.
Allison: Yes, especially in progressive and liberal circles, a lot of us know how increased police surveillance affects people of color or queer people. The people this is affecting may not be used to being targeted by police, and this may awaken them to the problems of state repression and suddenly seeing how that affects their lives.
Sarah: Talk about why it was important for DSA to be involved in this.
Allison: There are a few reasons. We were excited about it as soon as we heard about it. The idea of the juggalos marching on Washington is an exciting idea. I think everyone on the internet can relate to that. When we heard about the actual issues, we knew it was something we ideologically supported. As socialists, we don’t like state repression. We don’t like the abuses that law enforcement inflicts on our citizens. At our recent DSA convention in August, actually, we passed a resolution about dismantling the police state and abolishing prisons. So this falls in line with our party assessed ideas.
Also, we want to build a movement that actually reflects what the nation looks like. The Washington, D.C. chapter of DSA tends to lean white, and it tends to lean professional. We thought it was a good idea to reach out to a group of working-class people who have actually been affected by police.
Sarah: You mentioned before that the identity of juggalo is built around the idea of creating a chosen family. I would love for you to talk a little bit more about that concept and its relevance to political organizing.
Allison: One of the chants you heard a lot at the march was “Family! Family!” That is sort of this juggalo idea that your juggalos and your juggalettes are your brothers and sisters, and you come together because of this shared identity. That is something I relate to as a queer person finding my chosen family in that community. As part of DSA, I’ve been able to find people who are connected because of this ideological reason. We come together, and we have really formed this social circle around that. Finding a network that can support you when the state fails is really important. I think a lot of people have built their lives around that in some way. With the juggalos, that is happening.
Sarah: Tell us a little bit about the background work you did before going to the march to make sure that you could be there and not intrude on the family.
Allison: We didn’t want to show up and hand out copies of the Communist Manifesto. We worked through what would be well received. I reached out to a juggalo named Kitty Stryker. They are one of the founding members of the Struggalo Circus. They are a group that is organizing leftists within the juggalo community, and they are juggalos themselves. We were really impressed by what they are doing. I ended up contacting Kitty on Twitter. I asked, “What kind of messages might the juggalos want to hear? How might they be open to hearing this idea that we are bringing them? We are not juggalos ourselves. We are not going to pretend to be, but we want to reach out to them.”
They gave some really good advice. They said that a lot of juggalos that are political, and some are apolitical. Some of them are right-wing. They said that those who might be open to our message already lean towards being anarchists or libertarians, so we should focus on those aspects of being a socialist and meet them where they are. If they care about libertarianism, what are the libertarian socialist ideas we can bring them? If they care about dismantling the state, what are the anarcho-communist ideas we can bring them?
Sarah: How did your interactions with folks go on the day of the march?
Allison: They were all incredibly positive. We showed up right when the gathering started, when juggalos were basically starting to mill around the mall. It was sort of like a meet-up until the actual speeches started. We had a big sign that said “Faygo and Snacks” and had all these posters that said “Faygo not Fascism.” The question that everybody asked us was whether we actually had Faygo.
Sarah: And for people who don’t know what Faygo is, tell us why Faygo is important.
Allison: It is the official soda of the juggalos. I don’t actually know the back story there. But, it is this really sweet soda. They spray it at their concerts over the crowd, and people go wild. So, we had to get it. We got Faygo, and people were really excited. I gave people drinks and then we had bags of chips to hand out.
Then we said, “Oh, also, we have some propaganda for you if you are interested.” Everyone I offered a pamphlet to said “yes,” which is usually not the case when tabling at an event. A couple of people were like, “Oh, what is with the rose?” We put a rose on the little hatchet man logo. People were like, “What is DSA? Why are you guys out here?” We explained. At one point, a park ranger didn’t want us sitting still on the mall and just camping out, so we took our boxes and started wandering through the crowd. People were crazy about the posters, and people were really appreciative of the water. It was a really great day overall.
Sarah: I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the importance of subcultural groups being politicized, particularly in the Trump era.
Allison: I think what we are seeing right now with the juggalos is that their consciousness is being raised. They are suddenly the target of the State. Some of them already have been for other reasons, but now they are targets of the state because of this group, and they are reaching outside for support. I think you see that with a lot of marginalized groups across history. If you are being targeted for a certain part of your identity, you are going to look for solidarity with people in that identity.
We talk about how the punk scene radicalized a lot of people at the time. Politics are part of your daily life, right? If you are cast out for being a weirdo, or because you paint your face like a clown, you might start to wonder why society is able to do that to you. Why are you able to lose your job because of stuff you like? I think this is a really common thing across the state that we are seeing, and I think it is reaching a new population for the first time.
Sarah: Of course, this was happening on the same day as a supposedly “mother of all Trump rallies,” which I heard didn’t actually turn out to be very big. Was there interaction between the two, as far as you know?
Allison: Not that I saw. The juggalos were very insistent that this was not an anti-Trump march. They were not responding to the mother of all rallies. They did not want to interact, because they wanted it to be a very peaceful day. It was a very peaceful day. No arrests. No violence.
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.
Sarah Jaffe is a Type Media Center Fellow, co-host (with Michelle Chen) of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast, and a columnist at The New Republic and New Labor Forum. She was formerly a staff writer at In These Times and the labor editor at AlterNet. Her previous book is Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, which Robin D.G. Kelley called “The most compelling social and political portrait of our age.” You can follow her on Twitter @sarahljaffe.