Tattoo artist Alexander Lawrence, right, prepares to cover up a tattoo on the arm of Dylan Graves Bellows Falls.
A Vermont tattoo artist who has long offered free removal or covering of hateful skin art like swastikas, SS lightning bolts or the words "white power” says he’s seen an uptick in business recently following George Floyd's death.
Alexander Lawrence, who runs Mountainside tattoo from a storefront in the village of Bellows Falls, Vermont, says he’s always offered to remove hateful images or cover scars for free.
But following 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 been getting so many requests he's 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 are, like, ‘Oh, man I have this old tattoo.
I'm not like that anymore and I don't want people to think that I am,'" Lawrence said.
Earlier this month Dylan Graves, 28, visited Lawrence's shop to cover a swastika tattoo superimposed over a grinning skull wearing a World War II German army helmet he had inked on the inside of his upper left arm a decade ago.
When asked why he got the tattoo, Graves answered, "Stupidity, partying when I was younger. Really, that's it. Just being dumb."
Now he works for an excavation company that does jobs at the homes of wealthy people in the tourist town of Ludlow.
Many tattoo artists across the country will cover or erase old tattoos, especially in the aftermath of Floyd's killing, 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 cover or removing offensive tattoos is a public service.
Alexander said he's been doing free coverups since shortly after he opened his business in 2006. He's had brushes with the law and the free cover-ups are a way give back.
It's hard for people with offensive tattoos to escape them, and he said helping to remove them is a way he can help.
Alexander said he covers lots of symbols associated with Nazi Germany. Within the next few weeks, Alexander expects to see a customer who has "white” tattooed on the back of the calf of one leg and "power” tattooed on the other.
Alexander said many want to cover the tattoos because businesses don't want to have employees seen as racist.
As an artist, Alexander said he was contemptuous of hate tattoos, most of which aren't professionally done.
Graves said his swastika tattoo hasn’t drawn a lot of attention because it’s hidden, but he was still eager to get rid of it.
Since Graves' tattoo already has the image of a skull, Alexander used a pen to outline the image of the grim reaper. After he outlines the swastika cover-up Alexander starts 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 grim reaper, the mythological character that is a symbol of death.
After getting out of the chair and looking at it in the mirror, Graves said, "It's awesome."
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