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Oklahoma City prepares for Insane Clown Posse gathering

Person wearing clown makeup. Image via Thinkstock.
Person wearing clown makeup. Image via Thinkstock.

Thousands of "wicked clowns" are set to descend on northeast Oklahoma City this week and not everybody is laughing.

The 18th Gathering of the Juggalos — a music festival centered around the rap duo Insane Clown Posse — takes place Wednesday through Saturday at Lost Lakes Entertainment Complex, an amphitheater and water park that opened earlier this year about four miles east of downtown.

The band has a long history of controversy, at one point leading the FBI to place the band's fan base, the juggalos, on its list of organized gangs.

The music venue, which opened in May, also already is drawing criticism from some neighbors and the area's city councilman seeking to limit events and noise.

Councilman John Pettis said the announced festival was part of the impetus behind his proposal earlier this year to limit the number of performances at Lost Lakes. He has since rescinded the proposal after facing litigation from the property's owners.

"I have received some concerns from some citizens. I'm going to be watching it very closely," Pettis said.

Since the concert is expected to go well into the night multiple days, Pettis urges neighbors bothered by it to call the police.

"They just have to call the police and have officers come out so we can have a paper trail," Pettis said.

Oklahoma City police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said law enforcement is taking precautions.

"Safety of the public is our number one concern," Knight said.

On the event's Facebook page, self-proclaimed juggalos from as far as New York said they plan to attend the Oklahoma City event.

A "reformed juggalo" will be making the trip from Florida, his fifth appearance in a row at the Gathering.

Joseph Hamblen, 32, said he grew up in the juggalo culture 10 to 15 years ago, before his interest in drugs eclipsed his interest in the music.

Hamblen said he was saved while in jail, and now preaches to concertgoers as an outreach of Loving Hand Ministries, based in Bradenton, Fla.

Far from being a contentious visitor, Hamblen said he is invited by the event's co-organizer and hasn't had any bad encounters at previous Gatherings.

"It's not like I'm going there protesting," he said.

"Most of them love us. Very rarely do we have many problems. We may have a random couple that have a problem with us, but other juggalos tell them just to move on," Hamblen said.

He characterizes most juggalos as social outcasts who have found a new family among the group's fans.

"Our main goal is that these people will get saved and that they'll leave that culture," Hamblen said. "Last year, we actually had a guy come up and say this is my last year. Your prayer for me really worked. We're not coming back to this anymore."

Formed in Detroit in 1989, Insane Clown Posse is known for its dark lyrics paired with performances in black-and-white greasepaint. Both members, whose stage names are Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, have been arrested a number of times over the course of their careers.

Violent J, whose real name is Joseph Bruce, was arrested in 1997 and charged with aggravated assault after reportedly striking an audience member with a microphone about 30 times, the Associated Press reported at the time of the incident.

Bruce also has been arrested after fighting a heckler at an Indiana Waffle House and allegedly attacking radio station employees in St. Louis.

Shaggy 2 Dope, whose real name is Joseph Utsler, had his run-ins with the law as a teenager and has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.

Juggalos have been implicated in a number of violent crimes, including one of the most infamous mass murders in recent Oklahoma history.

Joshua Steven Durcho, 34, convicted of strangling a mother and her four children inside an El Reno apartment in January 2009, listed the Insane Clown Posse as his only musical interest on his MySpace page.

Durcho has the words "Wicked Clown'o" tattooed on his arm.

Matt Dinger

Matt Dinger was born and raised in Oklahoma City. He has worked in OPUBCO's News and Information Center since 2006, and has been assigned to the breaking news desk since its formation in fall 2008. He specializes in crime and police reporting. Read more ›