Kentucky tattoo shop is working to ‘cover the hate’ with free cover-ups of racist symbols – Courier Journal

Posted in Tattoo Shop on Sep 03, 2020

Tattoo artist Jeremiah Swift covers up a tattoo of a swastika as part of Gallery X Art Collective's "Cover the Hate" project.(Photo: Provided by Jeremiah Swift)

A tattoo studio in Murray, Kentucky, is contributing to the nationwide push for social justice in its own way: by covering up tattoos of hate symbols.

About three months ago as protestsaround the nation persisted over the killings of GeorgeFloyd in Minneapolisand Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Gallery X Art Collective tattoo artists Jeremiah Swift and Ryun King wanted to help out in any way they could.

Swift was scrolling through Instagram one day when he saw another shop offering to cover tattoos of hateful symbols for free and thought it was a great idea.

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"We did the same thing, and it just blew up," Swift said.

Swift and King do anywhere from four to sixcover-ups a week and are booked up at least through the end of the year, Swift said.Because of the overwhelming number of requests, they asked other tattoo shops in the region to join the project, including Tattoo Charlie's in Louisville. A few are asking the clients to make donations to Black Lives Matter in lieu of payment.

Some tattoo suppliers have made donations, but the free tattoos are more or less coming out of pocket.

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The idea is to help people who can't afford a new tattoo "cover up the things they've already covered internally," Swift said.

"We call it a coverbecause it's literally just covering up that last little bit," he said. "It's not like these people are coming in and then leaving with different views;they've changed their mindset for years andjust could never do anything about it."

The first person to come in for a cover-up was JennyTucker, a 36-year-old who'd had a Confederate flag on her ankle since she was a teenager. She said she got the tattoo whiledating someone who had one without really knowing the meaning behind it.

Jennifer Tucker was the first person to get a cover-up after Gallery X Art Collective started its "Cover the Hate" initiative. Tattoo artist Ryun King covered a Confederate flag tattoo on her ankle with Pickle Rick.(Photo: Provided by Gallery X Art Collective)

"I've wanted it coveredup for forever, but I forgot about it, literally, until this movement started to happen," Tucker said, referring to the recent rise in protests and calls for social justice, in which she's actively taken a part.

"Just standing outside with people and having that on my ankle was horrible," she said. "Protesting with people and having a rebel flag on your ankle when you're trying to get rebel flags taken down is not conducive to the movement."

So when a friend told her about Gallery X's "Cover the Hate" project, Tucker immediately sent a message and photo of her tattoo. She and King talked about what she liked and settled on a design of Pickle Rick from animated television series "Rick and Morty."

"It's so much better," she said."It makes me happy every time I look at it."

Gallery X Art Collective in Murray is offering free cover-ups of racist symbols, including this tattoo for the Nazi Low Riders, a white supremacy gang.(Photo: Provided by Gallery X Art Collective)

The majority of the requests Gallery X has gotten are to cover Confederate flags and swastikas, but Swift said they also want to help cover race-related gang tattoos.

One client came in with the initials "NLR" tattooed on her ankle for the Nazi Low Riders, a white supremacist prison gang based in California.

Swift began tattooing in Paducah, where he said there's a prominent skinhead following, and saidhe's had to refuse a number of people who wanted racist tattoos during his career.

"I've been offered hundreds of dollars to do the smallest things. ... I don't even do rebel flags," he said. "I get a lot of nasty looks because some people are just ignorant. They're not racist; they just don't believe it's a symbol of racism."

A lot of the people who come in for a cover-up tell stories about how their kids have biracial children, Swift said.

"They kind of woke up to the fact that, you know, they love this child, andthat contradicts their belief," he said. "So there's a lot of change involved, just in love and growing up."

Reach Emma Austin at or on Twitter at @emmacaustin. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

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Kentucky tattoo shop is working to 'cover the hate' with free cover-ups of racist symbols - Courier Journal

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