Alex Smoltschnik, who runs the Pride & Glory tattoo studio, told the Kurier newspaper that the idea was sparked by the recent tragedy in Graz - when a Bosnian man ploughed his car into a pedestrian shopping street, killing three people.
“Immediately a certain group of people were labelled as having negative characteristics,” the 47-year-old said.
He decided to post an offer on Facebook, pledging to provide a free piece of body art to anyone who booked an appointment before July 18th for a design symbolising tolerance and against racism. All he asks for is a small contribution to cover the cost of the inks.
He said he was overwhelmed by the response - 500 people got in touch to say they were interested and so far he has 200 appointments booked. He turned down a few requests because they were “too general”. One tattoo he did recently was of intertwined black and white hands.
Smoltschnik, whose skills have been featured at tattoo conventions across the world, plans to continue the project until the end of the year.
“By choosing to have a tattoo you are making a statement. It is something very personal, you wear it on your body, it’s very visible," Smoltschnik said. He added that it’s no longer enough just to ‘like’ something on Facebook as an act of solidarity, but that he felt it was time for him to act.
He has had requests from all of Austria’s provinces and the tattoo requests have been diverse - ranging from smashed swastikas, to embracing stick figures, to the words ‘no racism’. He added that for many people it was their first tattoo.
"Of course, we’re not going to save the world with tattoos against racism - but I think it’s still important to give a sign of the desire for a common coexistence,” he said.