Man gets tattoo makeover to cover Confederate flag

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KOVR) - After 40 years, a grandfather decided it was time to cover over a tattoo that prominently featured the Confederate flag.

Joe Tornello says he was 18 when he got it, one of his first tattoos.

"My favorite band back then was Leonard Skynard and they unfurled the big flag on the stage every night, you know?" he says.

Joe Tornello says he wanted to cover the tattoo for years, but says the push for changed pushed him to make the move.
Joe Tornello says he wanted to cover the tattoo for years, but says the push for changed pushed him to make the move. (Source: KOVR)

Once an inked-up president of a motorcycle club, Tornello is now a grandfather to 13 with nieces, nephews and cousins of all different backgrounds.

"And if I have that talk with them, what are they going to think, that my grandfather is ok with that? And I'm not ok with that and that's why I'm here," Tornello says.

He says the flag he once displayed, unaware, wasn’t what it is today.

"Through the years, it's changed," he says. "And I don't want...I'm not the person that represents."

Vinny Valenzuela, a tattoo artist at American Graffiti in Sacramento, has covered up just about every hate symbol you can imagine.

“I’m not really judgmental about it because I understand we all make mistakes when we’re young, man,” Valenzuela says.

An intricate process, Valenzuela designs the finished product digitally, making sure any remnants of an old tattoo will be gone forever.

"I've seen what racism does on a generational level and I just feel like I need to do my part, I feel like everybody should do their part if it's upon them," Valenzuela says.

While Tornello has wanted to cover up the Confederate flag on his arm for years now, he admits the push for change pushed him to make the move.

“I support all the things that are going on right now,” Tornello says. “It’s time for our country to change.”

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