A Mostly Typical Saturday In Washington, D.C.: Political Rallies — Plus Juggalos

 npr.org  9/16/2017 8:09:09 PM   Chris Benderev

People gather at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for Saturday's Juggalo March.

Al Drago/Getty Images

As a rule of thumb, it is not big news when multiple political rallies overlap in the same weekend in the nation's capital, a prime setting for anyone trying to send a message to the people in power.

But there are exceptions to every rule — and certainly an exception can be found in a large gathering of Juggalos airing their grievance against the FBI. (More on this later.)

On Saturday, downtown Washington, D.C., was home to three prominent demonstrations that some feared might combine violently but instead stayed largely separate and peaceful, with modest attendance.

The self-described Mother of All Rallies, designed to support President Trump and "defend American culture," was staged on the National Mall late Saturday morning.

Around the same time and several blocks away, near the White House, was the Protect American Democracy rally, which organizers say was meant to tell the president to take a tougher stance against Russian interference in American elections.

The rally garnering the most attention was the Juggalo March, an assembly set near the Lincoln Memorial of so-called Juggalos. The fans of the horror-core rap duo Insane Clown Posse are often adorned in face paint, tattoos and other symbols similar to those of group. The march was described on its website as "a collective statement from the Juggalo Family to the world about what we are and what we are not."

Insane Clown Posse was founded in 1989, and despite criticism of the group's crude and sometimes violent lyrics, it developed a considerable and dedicated following of Juggalos. (The term derives from a 1992 Insane Clown Posse song, NPR's Tanya Ballard Brown reported.)

In a 2011 report, the FBI classified Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang" following violent incidents allegedly committed by fans of group. Juggalos, in tandem with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the government in 2014, claiming Juggalos' "constitutional rights to expression and association were violated" by the FBI's classification. The case was dismissed but then later reinstated.

The Juggalos say the gang label has, through unfair discrimination, made it difficult to live a normal life for many of their members, some of whom were scheduled to speak on Saturday as part of the effort to express their anger to the FBI.

"We are taking out [sic] fight to the streets. Literally," said a statement on the "Juggalo March" website.

Trump supporters take to the National Mall on Saturday for what was called the Mother of All Rallies.

Susan Walsh/AP

As for politics, however, the "Insane Clown Posse and most Juggalos consider themselves very apolitical," pop culture writer Nathan Rabin told NPR's Scott Simon.

By the account of reporters from NPR and WAMU present on the National Mall, the crowds at all three events were enthusiastic but modest in size.

The pro-Trump Mother of All Rallies featured a float with signs saying "secure our borders" and "drain the swamp" and drew some prominent names from the so-called alt-right, including Jack Posobiec. The rally's organizers wrote on their website that Confederate flags and racism would not be allowed, clearly hoping to distinguish their event from the march of white supremacists that turned deadly last month in Charlottesville, Va.

Nevertheless, as NPR's Windsor Johnston reported, some counterprotesters attempted to tie the MOAR rally to Charlottesville, including one who held a sign featuring an image of the woman killed by a motorist there.

Officials kept the protesters far from one another, which, along with a heavy police presence, appeared to keep the Saturday events peaceful, reported WAMU's Sasha-Ann Simons.

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