Business owners along a trendy North Portland thoroughfare arrived at work recently to find some unsavory fliers taped to their shop doors and windows instructing them to vacate or else face what local news outlets called "sexual acts." The fliers—flimsy white sheets of printer paper embossed with bold, black text and clip art images of clown faces—ominously declared: "YOU HAVE BEEN TARGETED BY THE JUGGALO FAMILY TO GET THE FUCK OUT. VACATE OR SUCK OUR DICKS." So far, no group—Juggalo or otherwise—has taken responsibility for the fellatio threat.
As many as 14 businesses were targeted, but no one—including the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)—has been able to track down any leads.
"At this point, I don't know if it was just a temporary moment of some guys having fun or what, but there haven't been any sort of follow ups or anything like that," Bruce Kehe, a spokesman for Hopworks Urban Brewery, a bar on N. Williams Street that got slapped with a flier last week, told me. "We've been in the neighborhood for three and a half years now, and we've been really well received in the time that we've been there."
But local and national media grasping for a motive have taken to gesturing toward the idea that the supposed Juggalos are angry about the breakneck pace of gentrification in North Portland that's centered around the intersection of N. Williams and N. Shaver Streets. Newcomers have displaced minority communities and low-income families and are driving up the cost of living, the story goes. Juggalos are generally working-class folks, so they want these interlopers to "get the fuck out."
At a quaint print shop down the block from Hopworks on N. Williams, a woman named Melissa was unsure why the shop had been targeted, since the fliers had mostly appeared on newer businesses. The print shop, she said, had been there for seven years. "Don't you think that shops like this could be seen as part of a larger project of gentrification, even if it's been here for seven years?" I asked, glancing at the stacks of thick eggshell stationary with fragile outlines of Oregon and small hearts dotting Portland. "What do you mean 'shops like this?'" Melissa responded. "It makes me wonder," she continued, "are the [culprits] new to the neighborhood?"
Gentrification is always an easy way to explain urban unrest. That's especially true in this case, with all of the businesses targeted leaning toward the trendy, glorified aspects of the city you'd expect to show up in Portlandia: a minimalist coffee shop with sharp-angled furniture, a yoga studio, and a store with a mixture of pristine vintage Pendleton sweaters and aged cocktail paraphernalia.
But local Juggalos don't buy this narrative. They've even gone so far to posit that the feds are carrying out an elaborate frame job on them. Hundreds of commenters on the True Juggalo Family Facebook page have intimated that the culprits are nothing but imposters trying to sully the good Juggalo name. "Its the new gen of juggalos that give us older ones a bad fucking name and is a reason we r watched by the fuckin fbi and im sorry im not n a gang im part of a family," wrote Samson Colvin. Another user posted a picture of the group's iconic Hatchet Man holding a rose where a meat cleaver usually is.
According to the Portland Juggalo Family, the de facto local affiliate and an obvious first choice for suspect, the fliers were an amateurish ruse. I asked for comment, and a man named Greg who responded via a Facebook message said that the group is upset to have been associated with the crude fliers:
"Aye man I'll say this, those 'Juggalos' that did that are either fake, or they are doing shit in our name making us look like we are criminals, they are nothing but little punks who probably got nothing better to do than make more people hate us, and it's a disgrace to our family name, all we do is sit around, chill, hangout with one another, party, or relax but it doesn't mean we won't protect one another, when I see my Juggalo family I look at em as a brother or sister, and those 'juggalos' doing that shit need to leave our family name out of it, because I sure as hell know they aren't a real juggalo, all we is, is family."
For their part, the police more or less back up the Juggalo's sentiments—both in Portland and elsewhere. According to a spokesman for the PPB, local law enforcement has "no reason to believe the threats are legitimate and are encouraging area residents and businesses to be aware of the flyers but to operate normally. We do not have any history of Juggalo activity in Portland to any significant degree."
None of the businesses I spoke to reported any follow-ups or other malicious activity in the neighborhood, aside from a spike in car break-ins. But the message of love and togetherness being offered by Juggalos nationwide in response to the fliers suggests that any self-respecting Juggalo is unlikely to stoop this low.
Alex Mierjeski is a freelance reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter.