We're now several months into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this ongoing "Interviews for Resistance" series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators not only about how to resist but also about how to build a better world. Today's interview is the 75th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.
Last weekend, in Washington, DC, the Juggalos -- fans of the band Insane Clown Posse and their record label -- marched against their criminalization. In 2011 the FBI decided to classify 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.
We spoke with Allison Hrabar, a rank-and-file member of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) who was part of a solidarity delegation to the Juggalo march. To read Hrabar's thoughts on health care organizing in DC, as well, click here.
Sarah Jaffe: This past weekend, you were part of the DSA contingent that was at the Juggalo March. Start off, tell us a little bit about your perceptions of the march. How did it go?
Allison Hrabar: It was one of my favorite days in DC 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 pm. Our Faygo [a soft drink that is popularly consumed and sprayed within the Juggalo subculture] was gone by 1:30 pm. We had some really great conversations with people about the march.
You say that marches have started to get repetitive. I would like to hear a little bit more about why this one felt different and fresh.
For one, it was a lot of people coming from outside of DC. 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. Also, they have clown face paint on, which is not a normal look by the Lincoln Memorial.
Yes, I imagine the tourists -- that was not what they had expected.
Yes, there were some tourists who were walking up the mall from the Washington Monument toward the Lincoln Memorial, and watching them navigate through the crowd with their families was very fun.
Give us a little background on the march and the demands and the basis for why the Juggalos marched on DC.
In 2011, the FBI classified "Juggalos" (that is what fans of the Insane Clown Posse call themselves) 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, which a lot of fans do, 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 were losing custody of their children. They were losing jobs. Some were unable to re-enlist in the Army. 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.
Any of us might have band t-shirts of bands that people don't particularly understand in our closets. The fact that these can suddenly become a marker of criminality is something we don't expect.
And a lot of people have ignored that, because they are treated as sort of a joke. Like, if Nickelback suddenly became a gang symbol, that would be very funny. It would also be a problem.
We are also just not used to that happening to a group of mostly white people.
Yes, especially in progressive and liberal circles. A lot of us know how increased police surveillance affects people of color or queer people.... This can [also] affect the lives of the [white] working class around us who may not be used to seeing that. And the people that it 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.
Talk about why it was important for DSA to be involved in this.
There are a few reasons. First, is that 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. DCDSA tends to lean white, it tends to lean professional. So [we liked] the idea of being able to reach out to a group of working-class people, reaching out to people who have actually been affected by police. Not just people who care about the issue, but people who can talk about how this has really affected their lives, was really important to us.
You had mentioned before that the identity of Juggalo is sort of built around the idea of building a chosen family. I would love for you to talk a little bit more about that and its relevance to political organizing.
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. I think that is something that I relate to as a queer person finding my chosen family in [the queer] community and actually, part of DSA; being 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. It is this idea of finding a support network that can support you when the state fails ... I think a lot of people have built their lives around that in some way.
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.
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 ... 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 DMing [direct messaging] Kitty on Twitter and 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 are political -- and not all of them are. Some of them are apolitical. Some of them are right-wing. They said that those who might be open to our message already kind of lean toward being an anarchist or toward being a libertarian, 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?
How did your interactions with folks go on the day of the march?
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 meetup 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.
And for people who don't know what Faygo is, tell us why Faygo is important.
It is the official soda of the Juggalos. I don't actually know the back story there. But, it is this really sweet soda that you can usually only get around Michigan, I think, or maybe certain parts of the south. 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 that I offered a pamphlet to said, "Yes," which is usually not the case when tabling 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. People were really appreciative of the water. It was a really great day overall.
I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the importance of subcultural groups being politicized, in particular in the Trump era. Obviously, this goes back to 2011, but there are probably many things building toward this moment.
I think what we are seeing right now with the Juggalos [is that] people ... 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.... 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.
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.
I didn't end up going down to that side of the mall, but from what I heard it was under 1,000 people, for sure. I wouldn't call it the mother of all rallies. Certainly not the largest march in the last two months.
What was the estimated attendance at the Juggalo March?
The Juggalo March I would say [was] probably about the same size. It might have grown later in the day, especially with the concert. I would say it was probably about 1,000 people. I had hoped there [were] a few more Juggalos in the world.
But, there was no interaction between the two as far as you know?
Not that I saw. The Juggalos were very insistent that this was not an anti-Trump march. They were not [organizing] in response 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. There was an antifa group going around the mall. They started at the mother of all rallies and I think their presence maybe wasn't needed. I don't think there was a lot of action down there, either. They were wandering down to the Juggalo side of the mall and camping out in the hills listening to some speeches and protests. Which I thought was very funny. It was an interesting visual. But, I think that was the only mix, other than journalists going back and forth.
How can people keep up with you and DC DSA?
You can follow DC DSA on Twitter @DC_DSA or at our website at www.DSADC.org. Not www.DCDSA.org, which is a sheriff's website. We are not that. It is a very common mistake. That is where we have a lot of updates about actions that people can get involved in. If the Juggalos come back, we will be excited to march with them again.
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.