A Mission District tattoo parlor was graffitied for the second time on Monday night after activists charged on social media that the tattoo shop was owned by “racist, right-wing, xenophobic, anti-immigrant Trump supporters” and asserted that its logo contains a swastika.
Ben Volt and Matt Brown, the owners of the Form8 tattoo shop at 3049 22nd St. on the corner with Shotwell Street, emphatically denied these claims on Tuesday. Brown noted that his assistant is a black woman.
“Some of the people I love the most are of all different races and nationalities,” said Brown, who lives in East Oakland.
Volt said he is devastated by the allegations.
“I would never try to associate myself with something hateful,” said Volt, who has lived in the Mission for 16 years. “We mostly mind our own business and focus on our art.”
At the crux of the controversy is Volt’s boyfriend, Johnny Wilk.
Keep Hoods Yours — also known as KHY, a San Francisco-based graffiti crew that organizes against gentrification and racism — called out Form8 in an Instagram posts on Friday, but made it clear that no one connected to their Instagram account had anything to do with the graffiti.
The account posted photos from Wilk’s Instagram account that showed support for presidential candidate Donald Trump and were harshly critical of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
One of Wilk’s posts featured an image of Clinton with a Hitler moustache and the word “Hitlary” above it, while another featured a lawn sign reading “Hillary for Prison 2016.” Some of his posts had the hashtags #crookedhillary and #isshedeadyet.
Yet another post featured the Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or to leave the country.”
Wilk was working part-time for Form8, which opened six months ago, but was let go after his Instagram posts were revealed by Keep Hoods Yours, according to Volt. It is unclear when Wilk made the initial posts.
“John’s a good guy, but he didn’t realize the power of social media,” Volt said, “and his strong opinions are not represented by the rest of us.”
Along with the posts from Wilk’s account, Keep Hoods Yours also posted about the tattoo shop on Friday, making allegations that the shop owners were “anti-immigrant Trump supporters” and saying their logo contained a swastika.
That same Friday, after the Instagram posts from Keep Hoods Yours, the outside of the tattoo shop was tagged with gold spray paint that read “Fuck Trump” and “KHY.”
Later that day, Keep Hoods Yours posted photos of the vandalism on Instagram with the caption “we’ll gladly repost documentation of anyone challenging them or calling them out.”
Keep Hoods Yours said in a direct message to Mission Local that “no one involved in managing this account had anything to with [the graffiti]” and that the account received a picture of the graffiti in a message.
The shop’s exterior was tagged again on Monday night with black squiggles and the words “Fuck you.”
The radical graffiti crew has also taken issue with Form8’s logo, which Volt said is “the number 8 turned four times and woven together” inside of a cross. It’s an apolitical mandala, he explained, and represents the kind of bold-lined, geometric work that his artists do.
Brown said that he saw the resemblance to a swastika only after Keep Hoods Yours posted about the logo.
“Now that I look at the sign I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. I can see,’” he said. Brown said Form8 plans to change its emblem as soon as possible.
Volt said fewer customers have walked into the shop since the social media blitz against the business, and that he’s received several angry messages on Facebook.
A few people have also called out the parlor on Twitter. One user, @marymad, tweeted a recent tattoo of “Thor’s hammer” on a Form8 customer’s chest.
“Thor’s Hammer is also a Nazi/white supremacist symbol,” she wrote. “A tattoo artist doesn’t know that?”
Volt said that the customer was Jewish, and that his tattoo was an homage to his Nordic roots.
As police took reports on the vandalism at around noon on Tuesday, the building’s former tenant, Derek Song, happened to pass by and snapped some photos of the spray paint. He said he never got tagged when his business, the art gallery Park Life, inhabited the space.
Song said he assumed the vandalism was an act of anti-gentrification activism. He said he doesn’t see a swastika in Form8’s logo.
“Just looks like a cross to me,” he said.