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Detroit judge hears arguments in lawsuit challenging FBI gang tag on Insane Clown Posse fans

FILE --In this Jan. 8, 2014 file photo, Joseph Bruce, aka Violent J, left, and Joseph Utsler, aka Shaggy 2 Dope, members of the Insane Clown Posse, address the media in Detroit. The U.S. Justice Department is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Insane Clown Posse, which objects to a report that describes its fans as a dangerous gang. A Detroit federal judge holds a hearing Monday, June 23, 2014. The government says the rap-metal duo from the Detroit area and its fans have no standing to sue. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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FILE --In this Jan. 8, 2014 file photo, Joseph Bruce, aka Violent J, left, and Joseph Utsler, aka Shaggy 2 Dope, members of the Insane Clown Posse, address the media in Detroit. The U.S. Justice Department is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Insane Clown Posse, which objects to a report that describes its fans as a dangerous gang. A Detroit federal judge holds a hearing Monday, June 23, 2014. The government says the rap-metal duo from the Detroit area and its fans have no standing to sue. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT - Lawyers for the federal government and fans of rap-metal duo Insane Clown Posse clashed in court Monday over whether the FBI can be sued for the negative fallout of describing them as a loosely organized gang.

Some fans, called Juggalos, claim to have lost custody of children, lost jobs and been denied housing simply because they enjoy the music of the duo from the Detroit area. Another fan was told he couldn't apply to the Army without removing or covering Insane Clown Posse tattoos, usually a man running with a hatchet.

Justice Department attorney Amy Powell said the group and its fans have no standing to sue. She said the government is not responsible for how police agencies use information in the 2011 national gang report.

Powell said a "subjective chill" as alleged by plaintiffs was not enough to be in court.

"There is no general right of protection to a social association," she said, referring to First Amendment violations argued by Insane Clown Posse and its fans.

The FBI report labeled the Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang." It said those who identify as Juggalos have committed assaults and vandalism, and a "small number" of them have engaged in more serious crimes.

There is no reference to Juggalos in the 2013 report, Powell told U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland.

Saura Sahu, an attorney for four fans, encouraged the judge to keep the lawsuit alive. He said the government's analysis of gangs is critical information for police but the report "went too far here."

Cleland suggested the government has the upper hand in the case. He said he'd probably make a decision in July.

Insane Clown Posse members Joseph Bruce, or Violent J, and Joseph Utsler, known as Shaggy 2 Dope, are plaintiffs but didn't appear in court Monday. They are known for wearing face paint when they perform.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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