Anti-Police Tattoos:

June 2020 and the world (largely the Western world, particularly North America and England) has started to open to their eyes to the reality that the police are not “the good guys.” First some statistics from Canada and The United States before we get into the history of police.

Burning cop car by Caitlin Carter at Blackbrush Tattoo Studio.
ACAB cop skull by Matt E at World Tattoo Studio and Scrimshaw.

In the US, police kill more than 1000 people a year. Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed than white people, and are 1.4 times more likely to be UNARMED during these killings. In Canada the numbers are harder to find, though police have killed close to 500 people that we know of since the year 2000, and the number has been climbing yearly.

New School pig cop by Fatyna Tattoo.

Looking specifically at Toronto, an Indigenous person is 10 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than a white person. While Indigenous people are persecuted by police in Canada at a larger percentage than any other race, black people are also targets for police violence. Again looking at Toronto, 18 black men and one black boy were among the 52 people killed by police in Toronto alone from 2000-2017. Of those cases only 7 police officers faced charges and only 1 was found guilty.

ACAB tattoo done at The Black Drama in Toronto.

As of 2015 the US makes up only 5% of the worlds population, but 21% of the world’s prisoners. Land of the free? Not even close. Black people in the US are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of white people. Black women do twice the amount of time in prison than white women for the same crimes. Click here to learn more about incarceration in the US.

Cute protester by Vonmal21 in Toronto.

Meanwhile in Canada, Indigenous people make up only 4.5 precent of the population, but make up 25% of the male prison population, and 35% of the female prison population.

Sign language ACAB by worms.tattoo at Studio 344.

Now let’s look at where police actually come from. Spoiler alert, they have never been there to “protect and serve.”

1312 gap filler by Saskia Santa Sangre

In the US, the institution of slavery and the control of minorities and immigrants are the two biggest reasons why police exist in America today. Slave Patrols and Night Watches were both created to control BIPOC. These date back to 1636, and possibly earlier. These were groups of men who would search for escaped slaves, and were meant to protect colonizers from the Native Americans they were murdering at an alarming rate. These groups built on oppression and racism later became official police in the US during the 1830’s and were/are still extremely violent, particularly towards minorities, including BIPOC and people from the LGBTQ community.

Cute FTP and ACAB matching tattoos by Gem.tattoos

In Canada, the story is almost exactly the same. Canadians might like to think our country has less racism than the US but both our countries were built on it, and both are still suffering because of it. Like the US, Canadian police came from groups of people much like the Night Watches and Slave Patrols in the US. At the time Canada also had slaves, and was also in the middle of the mass genocide of Indigenous peoples. By the 1830’s these groups turned into official police forces, and though slavery was abolished in 1834 in Canada, black and Indigenous people were already associated with crime in the white eye. Meaning simply existing as a BIPOC put you at risk of police and white brutality in Canada just as much as the US.

Burning cop car by Natasha at All Sacred Edgewater

Tattoos have long been an underground art form, being made illegal numerous times throughout history, and is still illegal in some countries today. While in the West and North America in particular, tattoos are becoming more and more mainstream, they are still most popular in alternative scenes, and particularly with people who generally lean farther left politically (of course there are exceptions). Therefore anti-establishment and anti-police tattoos have existed for a long time, and will continue to exist.

Cop beatings by Vasiliy Stadler.

Anti-police tattoos are most often done in American traditional style, black work, or ignorant style.

Ignorant style anti-police tattoo by Janky Doodlez

To read more about the history of police oppression and violence in North American please click here, here, or here.

Love Mom Hate Cops by Kim Bendig

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Feel free to link any other readings below.

10 Indigenous Tattoo Artists to Support:

Today ( June 21st 2020) is National Indigenous People’s Day. Indigenous people have a rich history of body modification, including tattooing, which is still being practiced today.

Haida inspired pieces by Mikel at https://www.instagram.com/mikel_tattoosangha/?hl=en
Tipi/teepee by Vince at https://www.instagram.com/badboyvince3090/?hl=en

Before colonialism ravaged North America, tattooing and other traditional body modifications such as piercings were practiced widely by different people throughout what is now Canada and The United States.

Hand poked design by Nahaan at https://www.instagram.com/nahaan206/?hl=en
Hand poked and skin stitched by Quill at https://www.instagram.com/raunchykwe/?hl=en

These tattoos were meant to represent family, clan crests, social rank within a clan, their relationship to a specific territory, and even hunting and fishing rights.

Skin stitched blue berries done by Amy Malbeuf at https://www.instagram.com/amy.malbeuf/?hl=en
Hand poked trees by Jaime at https://www.instagram.com/intheforest.tattoo/?hl=en

Tattooing and piercing are just two ceremonial practices that were forbidden by colonists in an attempt to stamp out Indigenous culture, and today, many artists are bringing it back.

Hand poked and skin stitched flowers and fish by https://www.instagram.com/audie.m_/?hl=en

North American Indigenous designs are similar to those of the Maori people of New Zealand. Geometric patterns using black ink, produced generally by tapping or threading the ink into the skin using a natural rod or thread, also called “hand poked” or “skin stitched” tattoos.

Hand poked chin tattoo by https://www.instagram.com/kaniyewna.tsyeyatalu/?hl=en

Placement is also similar between the cultures, often placing important tattoos on faces and hands, among other body parts.

Hand poked chin tattoo by Dion Kaszas at https://www.instagram.com/dionkaszas/?hl=en

Indigenous tattoos traditionally take inspiration from nature, such as animals, plants, and the elements. But of course Indigenous tattooers can and do work in other styles.

American traditional pirate pieces by Cam Von Cook at https://www.instagram.com/camvoncooktat2/?hl=en

To learn more please check out

https://www.earthlinetattoo.com/home

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/08/23/these-five-indigenous-tattoo-artists-are-reawakening-cultural-practices

https://www.indigenoustattooing.com

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Feel free to link more artists below, as well as any further readings on Indigenous tattooing and modifications.

Japanese Blackwork Tattoos:

Japanese is undeniably one of the most popular tattoo styles, but heavy black pieces are changing the game.

Blackwork wave sleeve mixed with geometric patterns by Raimundo Ramìrez.
Spirited Away’s Yubaba done by Stephen Doan.

Japanese tattoos traditionally use lots of red and black, but also feature some yellows, orange, and shades of grey. Basically the same colour palette as original American traditional.

Blackwork tiger back done by Takizomoro.
Samurai Hannya done by Daniel Ra.

Blackwork is becoming a more and more popular style all the time, and can be done in many styles.

Blackwork leg sleeves done by Guy Le Tatooer.
Blackwork cloud sleeves with geometric patterns done by Gakkin.

Japanese blackwork often makes great use of negative space, making the subject pop, particularly when done on lighter skin tones.

Blackwork Bodhidharma by HoriNami.
Blackwork peony and snake sleeves by Lupo Horiōkami.

Some artists also mix styles such as Neo-traditional and geometric with their Japanese work. Both of these styles are often done as all black pieces, so it mixes well.

Blackwork namakubi by Damien J. Thorn.
Blackwork fish by Horihiro.

Which tattoo is your favourite?

Blackwork negative space sleeve by Oscar Hove.
3/4 sleeves and chest panels by Gotch.

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Artist of the Month: Nick Oaks

Nick Oaks is a tattooer working out of Bait & Schlang Tattoo in Montreal. His work is as classic as it gets. Filled with big bold dragons, lady heads, roses and skulls.

Classic Sailor Jerry monkey.
Bright and bold back piece featuring a dragon and classic lady.

He takes inspiration from greats such as Sailor Jerry, Tony Polito, E.C. Kidd, and more.

Tony Polito cowboy skull.
Black traditional E.C. Kidd dragon.

Whether you’re looking for black traditional or bright and colourful, Nick can take care of it for you.

Bright geisha head.
Pharaoh’s horses on the stomach.

His Instagram is full of both small one off designs, and large scale work such as back pieces.

Classic lady head.
Panther and snake in battle.

Nick has lots of flash to choose from, and lots of paintings for sale as well.If you’re in Montreal, or going to be, click the link above and check out his Instagram where he has his contact information.

A beautiful tiger, ready for a scrap.
Healed lady head and tiger on the ribs.

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10 Black Tattoo Artists to Support:

There is unfortunately still quite a bit of subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism in the tattoo industry. It’s often believed that customers with darker skin are harder to tattoo, but that’s certainly not the case. Especially as body modification is such an important part of all cultures and histories, not just white ones.

Tony at West 4 Tattoos in NYC. Specializing in fine line and micro tattoos.https://www.instagram.com/anthologytattoos/?hl=en
Another by Tony. From A Tribe Called Red album cover.
Kandace Layne in Atlanta. Specializing in line and dot work https://www.instagram.com/kandacelayne/
Chest done by Kandace.

Black ink is also not the only ink that has to be used on dark skin, contrary to what many believe. Darker skin can still feature bright and colourful pieces. you just have to know what you’re doing with that tattoo machine.

Jaz Paulino with a piece inspired by Frida Kahlo. https://www.instagram.com/gentle_jaz/
Berry’s by Jaz.
Coverup by Kat in California who does lots of realism and gothic work. https://www.instagram.com/kattatgirl/?hl=en
Unfinished black history leg piece by Kat. Featuring Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

More tattoo artists should push themselves to learn how to tattoo different skin types, including darker skin, as the subculture of tattooing isn’t so “sub” anymore. It can be disheartening for black or tanned customers walking into a tattoo shop when all they see is flash painted on white paper, and portfolios filled with white skin, or only very dark tattoos on darker skin.

Dark Mark by Brittany in Toronto. Specializing in line work. https://www.instagram.com/humblebeetattoo/
Delicate fingers by Brittany.
Miryam Lumpini in LA with a neo traditional scar coverup. https://www.instagram.com/miryamlumpini/
Cute neo traditional red panda by Miryam.

(June 2020) With the world finally rallying beside our black brothers and sisters it’s more important than ever to support black businesses, including tattoo artists.

Craig Foster at Skinwerks. Specializing in new school. https://www.instagram.com/skinwerks/?hl=en
New school pizza coming at you from Craig.
Tee J Poole. Specializing in surrealistic tattoos.https://www.instagram.com/teejpoole/?hl=en
J. Cole portrait by Tee J.

Feel free to leave more links to black tattoo artists below!

Healed plants by Doreen Garner in NYC Specializing in black work and fine line tattoos. https://www.instagram.com/flesh_and_fluid/?hl=en
Tiger by Doreen.
Melody Mitchell who does lots of black and grey and water colour pieces.https://www.instagram.com/melodytattoos/?hl=en
Mandala by Melody.

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