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June 23, 2015

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As stores drop Confederate flag; tattoo parlors say symbol was never popular in region

As the nation debates whether the Confederate flag should be removed from state houses and license plates in the wake of the racially motivated, fatal shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, businesses are quickly removing what many are calling a symbol of hate. 

Walmart, eBay and Sears have said they would stop selling merchandise with the Confederate flag. Amazon is also reportedly no longer going to sell Confederate flags and related merchandise, even though sales have skyrocketed as the items are being pulled from retailers' shelves, according to Business Insider. In Philadelphia, Geno’s steaks quickly removed a Confederate flag-themed sticker from a display motorcycle after a customer complained, according to

But unlike in the South, where the Confederate flag has remained popular despite decades-old calls for its removal from government property, it has never been a hot item in Philadelphia, even in tattoo parlors where the rebel symbol has long been part of the ink culture.

“We don’t see any of that here,” said Tony Baris, an artist who works at Cresson Street Tattoos. “We don’t have a policy (for or against) because we don’t come across it.”

Baris said when he worked in Florida, a Confederate flag tattoo was more popular but in Eastern Pennsylvania, it wasn’t something people wanted on their bodies. Baris said the last time he came across the flag in Philadelphia was when he was asked to cover it up for a client.

“I don’t do anything racial,” Baris said.

Will Majors, the operations leader at Art Machine Productions on Frankfort Avenue, said if someone came into the shop and asked for a Confederate flag tattoo, he wasn’t going to say no.

“I’m in the business of making money,” he said, then added that like the other shops surveyed, “we haven’t done one."

Majors said he abhors racist tattoos, adding he was once a member of an anti-skinhead gang. There is where he will draw the line.

“I personally will not do skinhead tattoos,” Majors said. “I’ve gotten into physical altercations with skinheads.”

Of four local parlors willing to discuss the issue, none said requests for the Confederate flag were common. Some shops said artists had the authority to make their own individual decisions about what they would or would not draw.

“With any tattoo artist, they have the right to refuse tattooing people,” said Tina Nguyen, a sales employee at Body Graphics.