Local tattoo shop offers free removal of racist, gang-related tattoos

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jan 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 18:17:29-05

Southside Tattoo has been open in Brooklyn Park for nearly four years.  But Tuesday, artist David Cutlip wasn't working on a typical client.

"I've made millions of mistakes in my life, and this is by far the worst mistake that I’ve made," said Casey Schaffer.

He’s sitting in the chair to mask a racist tattoo he got while in prison.  The 29-year-old has ‘white power’ inked on his forearms.

"All my tattoos symbolize something about me,” Casey said.  “And these two tattoos on my arms do not symbolize anything about me."

He says the artwork was a mistake, but now he's trapped with a six-inch statement on each arm that he doesn't believe in.          

In the seven months since he's been released, Casey says those two words have put his life on pause.

"It's definitely holding me back,” said Casey.  “It's preventing me from getting into a nursing career, it's preventing me from working with the fire department."

The new tattoo going on-top of the racist statement is an anatomical heart, flanked by roses.  The artwork comes with a nearly $700 price tag.  Yet Casey won't pay a penny.  Southside Tattoo is doing the work completely free, no strings attached.

"Sometimes we make bad decisions, and, you know, I wanted, basically to help people start over," said David.

About two weeks ago, David and his wife Elizabeth put a simple post on Facebook asking folks to call the shop if they had a racist or gang related tattoo from a past life they wanted to hide with new art.  Unexpectedly, the post blew up.

"It's thousands and thousands and thousands of likes and shares," Elizabeth said.

David started doing the cover-ups last Tuesday.  He is already booked solid erasing the reminders of old wounds on people for the next six-months.

"I'm gonna keep going until it's not just feasible anymore, to be honest with you," he said.

Casey is client number three.  He knows the new tattoo will be life changing personally and professionally.  But he's also excited about the small things.

"I'll be able to wear short sleeves again,” Casey said.  “So I’m happy about that."

As a form of payment, David and Elizabeth are asking anyone who gets a free cover-up to just pay it forward.

“If we can donate our time to better our community, then hopefully other people will say, you know what I can donate my time, or we can help in this way,” said Elizabeth.

Southside Tattoo hopes this effort makes an impact in the Brooklyn Park community, but it's also gotten much bigger.           

David and Elizabeth are in the process of forming a non-profit called Random Acts of Tattoo.  The goal is to spread the free cover-up art to other tattoo parlors across the country.    

A GoFundMe page also has been set up to collect donations for supplies and fund the removal of tattoos that can't be masked.