BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. (AP) – A Vermont tattoo artist who has long offered free removal or coverage of obnoxious skin art such as swastikas, SS lightning, or the words “white power” says he has seen a surge in business recently after George Floyd’s death.
Alexander Lawrence, who directs the mountain tattoo From a store in the town of Bellows Falls, Vermont, he says he has always offered to remove hate images or cover scars for free. But after Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and revived the Black Lives Matter movement, Lawrence says he has received so many requests that he is looking for an office manager to schedule his appointments.
“I think they were out there, but it wasn’t, like in the limelight, you know, until things started happening and people said, ‘Oh man, I have this old tattoo. I’m not like that anymore and I don’t want people to think I am, ” Lawrence said.
Earlier this month, Dylan Graves, 28, visited Lawrence’s store to cover a swastika tattoo superimposed over a smiling skull wearing a WWII German Army helmet that he had inked on the inside of his arm. top left a decade ago.
When asked why the tattoo was done, Graves replied, “Stupidity, partying when I was younger. Really, that’s it. Just being silly.
Now he works for an excavation company that works on the houses of wealthy people in the resort town of Ludlow.
“It just isn’t something to have, and I hate it now,” she said as Alexander drew the outline of the image that would cover the swastika.
Many tattoo artists across the country will cover or erase old tattoos, especially after Floyd’s murder, but Alexander said not all do it for free.
Dr. Jeffrey Dover, a dermatologist who is the director of SkinCare Physicians in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, said covering or removing offensive tattoos is a public service.
“It is a pro bono service for the community, a service for humanity, a service for the individual who has the tattoo, but also for everyone who is offended by the tattoo,” said Dover, who is also an associate professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “Just think of the recoil of a Holocaust survivor who sees a Nazi tattoo.”
Alexander said he has been doing free cover-ups since shortly after he opened his business in 2006. He has had trouble with the law and free cover-ups are a way to give back.
“I have had people who forgive me and look beyond my bad decisions and help me get to a better place,” he said.
It is difficult for people with offensive tattoos to escape them, and he said that helping to remove them is one way they can help.
“These people are caught watching their bad decisions every day,” he said. “They have to hide them.”
Alexander said it covers many symbols associated with Nazi Germany. Within the next few weeks, Alexander expects to see a client who has “white” tattoos on the back of the calf on one leg and “power” tattoos on the other.
Alexander said many want to cover up tattoos because companies don’t want employees to be seen as 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 despised hate tattoos, most of which are not professionally done.
“They are homemade,” he said. “They are generally large and disproportionate, not even clean lines. So they are not only racist, but they are also bad. ”
Graves said his swastika tattoo has not drawn much attention because it is hidden, but he was still eager to get rid of it.
Since Graves’ tattoo already has the image of a skull, Alexander used a ballpoint pen to outline the image of the angel of death. After he describes the swastika cover-up, Alexander begins applying the ink, while Graves occasionally grimaces.
After almost 90 minutes in Alexander’s tattoo chair, the swastika is gone, replaced by the head of a death angel, the mythological character who is a symbol of death.
“What do you think, man?” Alexander asks Graves as he gives the arm a final cleaning.
“Yes, man,” answers Graves.
After getting up from his chair and looking at her in the mirror, Graves said, “It’s amazing.”