BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. (AP) – A Vermont tattoo artist who has long offered free removal or covering of spiteful skin art such as swastikas, SS lightning bolts or the words ‘white power’ says he has recently seen a business revival after the death of George Floyd.
Alexander Lawrence, who runs Mountainside Tattoo from a shop window in the village of Bellows Falls, Vermont, says he’s always offered to get rid of hateful images or cover scars for free. But after Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked global protests against police brutality and revived the Black Lives Matter movement, Lawrence says he’s getting so many requests that he’s looking for an office manager to make his appointments to plan.
“I think they were out there, but it wasn’t like the limelight, you know, until things started to happen and people were like,” Oh man, I got this old tattoo. I’m not like that anymore and I don’t want people to think I am, ” said Lawrence.
Earlier this month, 28-year-old Dylan Graves visited Lawrence’s shop to cover a swastika tattoo placed on top of a grinning skull with a World War II German army helmet he had on the inside of his left arm ten years ago inked.
When asked why he got the tattoo, Graves replied, “Stupidity, partying when I was younger. It really is. Just be stupid. “
Now he works for an excavation company that works with rich people in the tourist town of Ludlow.
“It’s just not something to put on, and I hate it now,” he said as Alexander sketched the outline of the image that would cover the swastika.
Many tattoo artists across the country will cover or erase old tattoos, especially in the aftermath of Floyd’s assassination, but Alexander said they don’t do it all for free.
Dr. Jeffrey Dover, a dermatologist who is the director of SkinCare Physicians in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, said that covering or removing offensive tattoos is a public service.
“It’s a pro bono service to the community, a service to humanity, a service to the person who has the tattoo, but also to all those offended by the tattoo,” said Dover, who is also an associate professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “Just think of the backlash from a Holocaust survivor who sees a Nazi tattoo.”
Alexander said that he started doing free cover-ups shortly after opening his company in 2006. He passed the law and the free cover-ups are a way of giving back.
“I’ve let people forgive and look past my bad decisions and help me find a better place,” he said.
It’s hard for people with offensive tattoos to escape, and he said he can help get them out.
“These people are stuck watching their bad decisions every day,” he said. “They have to hide them.”
Alexander said he covers many symbols related to Nazi Germany. Within a few weeks, Alexander expects to see a client who has tattooed ‘white’ on the back of the calf bone of one leg and tattooed ‘power’ on the other.
Alexander said many want to cover the tattoos because companies don’t want employees to be considered racist.
“I see it all the time, people lose their jobs because of bad decisions from previous years,” he said.
As an artist, Alexander said he disdained hate tattoos, most of which were not done professionally.
“They are homemade,” he said. “They are usually large and disproportionate and don’t even have clean lines. So they are not only racist, but also worthless. ‘
Graves said his swastika tattoo didn’t draw much attention because it was hidden, but he still wanted to get rid of it.
Since Graves’ tattoo already has the image of a skull, Alexander used a pen to sketch the image of the grim reaper. After sketching the swastika cover-up, Alexander begins to apply the ink, while Graves occasionally grimaces.
After almost 90 minutes in Alexander’s tattoo chair, the swastika has disappeared, replaced by the head of a grim reaper, the mythological character that is a symbol of death.
“What do you think, man?” Alexander asks Graves while wiping the arm for the last time.
“Yes, man,” answers Graves.
After getting out of the chair and looking at him in the mirror, Graves said, “It’s great.”
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