Last week, I took a walk in a juggalo's shoes — or at least his T-shirt.
Juggalos may be hated the world over, but nowhere do they feel less welcome than at Colorado Mills. Although juggalos can buy shirts and hoodies and jerseys with the red Hatchetman logo of Insane Clown Posse's label, Psychopathic Records, at the mall, if they want to walk around in the Hatchetman clothing they just bought at Colorado Mills, they get the boot.
I heard about this policy from an irate juggalette and decided to check it out for myself. So I went to the mall, marched right into Hot Topic and purchased a black T-shirt with a big red Hatchetman cartoon on the front while Sean Cronin, Westword's web editor, snapped photos to prove it.
When I walked out of the store, I put on the shirt, started window shopping — and waited. But then I spotted a kid wearing a Twiztid jersey with a big Hatchetman on the sleeve, and Sean and I hurried to catch up with the mohawked juggalo and his girlfriend. Twenty-year-old Lowell Hines was as nice as he could be. Turns out he works in the mall's Dairy Queen, sports juggalo gear when off duty — and gets chased by a security guard on a Segway just about every day.
"And you still wear the clothes?" I asked.
If we could wait around for a few hours, Lowell told us, when she arrived to start her shift, we could meet his mom, a juggalette who also refuses to hide the hatchet. But we didn't get the chance. Sure enough, within a few minutes a security guard on a Segway came rolling our way. "You're going to have to turn your shirt inside out or leave," she said to me, then turned her attention to Lowell. "You still work at Dairy Queen?"
Suddenly, Lowell transformed from a polite young man to a teen railing against authority. "Why should I have to take it off?" he asked. "It's my religious affiliation. This is discrimination!"
Next, the guard told Sean that he couldn't take photos in the mall — and his defiant thirteen-year-old came out, too. "Oh, okay," he said sarcastically, then moved behind the guard to take more photos. At which point some mall Big Brother came in over the guard's walkie-talkie, letting her know that Sean was still snapping photos. "You're going to have to erase those," she said.
Turning back to Lowell, the guard seemed defeated and a little embarrassed. It's not her rule, she reminded him. She was just doing what she's been told, trying to pay the bills. Did he think she likes this job?
When I asked her to explain the Colorado Mills policy, she said that the Hatchetman image is banned because it has been connected to crimes. "But I just bought this shirt in the mall," I pointed out.
She shrugged and said if I wanted to know more, I could ask the Lakewood police officer who was already on his way. Not curious enough to be arrested, I turned my shirt inside out and headed for the exit.
Tania Frazee did not go as quietly when she was stopped by a guard a few months ago. The single mother of three, a full-time student who also works, was wearing a shirt she'd bought in the mall when a guard told her it was "gang-affiliated" and called Lakewood police to escort her off the premises. Tania went home, fuming, and wrote a letter to Westword: "I do realize that there are people out there that will use this merchandise to express feelings that are not related to the music in a very inappropriate way, but that is not the feelings of the bands or the feelings of a true juggalo. If the mall feels that anyone wearing these things is affiliated with a 'gang,' would that not be considered profiling or discrimination? Is that not considered against the law?"
Not on private property, explains Steve Davis, spokesman for the Lakewood Police Department. If the mall's owners want to make a list of things that people are forbidden to wear inside Colorado Mills, they can — and they have. And while it's not the LPD's job to enforce the mall's rules, when a shopper refuses to obey them, he's considered a trespasser, and mall security can, and often does, call Lakewood police for assistance.
"We really haven't seen any crime that we attribute to them per se, other than tagging," Davis says of the juggalos. "As far as going into any major crime, we don't have any numbers or stats, just some intelligence that we've gathered over the last couple of years. They don't seem to be a formalized or well-organized group at this point, but they are coming close to that."
But if there's a juggalo gang out there, Tania says, she has yet to meet a single member. For her and the friends she's made since she started listening to ICP a few years ago, inspired by her juggalo fiancé, being a juggalo is about the music and the community around it, which is more like a church group than a gang. "If you listen to all the Joker CDs — because there are six Joker Cards, six CDs — they're preaching about God and being good," she says. "Juggalos don't judge each other, which is really nice for a change in the way society is today."
Because society does judge juggalos, especially when the Insane Clown Posse name is connected to a crime — Linda Damm's 2007 murder in Lafayette, for example. Linda Damm was stabbed eighteen times in the next by Bryan Grove, the boyfriend of her daughter, Tess. Both Bryan and Tess were juggalos, and Tess had posted photos and lyrics of ICP on her MySpace page. They both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Bryan was sentenced to forty years, and last week, sixteen-year-old Tess was sentenced to 23. Also last year, eighteen-year-old Brodie Clayton — a juggalo with ICP and Hatchetman tattoos — was charged in the stabbing murder of a seventeen-year-old boy in Weld County. Days before, Brodie had been accused of assaulting two girls, calling himself the Grim Reaper and cutting the neck of one with a butcher knife.
True juggalos wouldn't do anything like that, says Tasha, the owner of Big Tops, a store that sells juggalo clothes and music and Faygo where Tania is a regular customer. But because a few bad apples give the whole scene a bad name, Tasha doesn't want her last name used and doesn't advertise her store. She's worried about graffiti and vandalism — by people who hate on juggalos, and also by kids in the scene who think being a juggalo is about mayhem and destruction when it's not.
Tania drives a car with juggalo and Hatchetman stickers on the side, and says she was pulled over twice by Arvada police in the span of a few days. The car was searched, she says, and "my fiancé and his father had to stand facing the car, with their hands behind their back." The Arvada police told her it was because they couldn't see her temp tag, but she thinks she was a victim of profiling. She filed a complaint, but never heard back from the Arvada Police Department.
"We are aware that some of their members have a potential for violence, but we don't classify them as a gang," says Arvada police spokeswoman Susan Medina. "We have not seen a lot of the violence." But the Arvada police have seen a lot of the juggalo clothes and insignias, she adds.
This weekend, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office will be charged with keeping the peace when the juggalos head to Red Rocks for the Hatchet Attacks! ICP show. "Some of the history we've seen with their concerts, there's often a wide range of violent acts, drug use and an anti-government, anti-establishment kind of vibe, for lack of a better term," says Jeffco public-information officer Jacki Kelley. Her department, as well as law-enforcement units in Denver and Morrison, is well aware that the juggalos are coming, she says, and will be ready.
Tania will be one of those juggalos. Driving home from Big Tops with her three daughters in the back seat, she starts a sing-along. "Who's goin' chicken huntin'?" she calls to the girls, ages twelve, eleven and nine.
"We's goin' chicken huntin'!" they yell back.
"Cut a motherfucking chicken up, right!"
The girls pause — they know better than to say the "fuck" part of the chorus. So Mom says it for them, and then they all move into the second verse of the Insane Clown Posse anthem.
Chopping up Hilly and Billy Bob Billy
Cuz I chop motherfucking redneck silly
Peeked in his yard and what did I see
I seen a chicken boy fucking a sheep
I say "Mister Mister, what the fuck you trying to do."
Ah, Billy Billy Boo
Barrels in your mouth, bullets to your head
The back of your neck's all over the shed
Boomshacka boom chop chop bang.
It's just a silly song, says Tania. "We really are nice people."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.