Tattoo artist sees bump in desire to erase hateful skin art

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In this Friday, June 19, 2020, photo, tattoo artist Alexander Lawrence, right, prepares to cover up a tattoo that contained the image of a swastika on the arm of Dylan Graves Bellows Falls, Vt. Lawrence said he has always covered up or removed offensive tattoos for free, but the demand has increased since the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – 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.

"It's just not something to have on, and I hate it now," he said while 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 killing, but Alexander said not all do it for free.