Now that Ann Arbor business Pangea Piercing has officially closed its doors for good –– the result of a massive outcry against the behavior of owner J.C. Potts, which many constitutes abuse, sexism and white supremacy –– community members are thinking about how to best fill the empty space, and ensure Potts is not able to continue his piercing career elsewhere.
After a tweet from user @LauraStroudd went viral on Aug. 21 describing a situation in which Potts made several white supremacist remarks to her during a piercing, Alice Held, another previous customer, shared her own experiences with Potts, as well as those of over 30 others she had collected. During one piercing, Held said Potts made reference to her breasts, saying she was “blessed,” and used the N-word. In an earlier instance, when she was 14, Held said Potts prohibited her father from being present in the room during a piercing, though nothing else inappropriate occurred.
“I’m very involved in the body modification community in general, and I want that to be a very safe place, and it’s not with this guy being in business,” Held said. “So, my biggest goal is I obviously don’t want him to be piercing in Ann Arbor or anywhere, so making sure –– keeping tabs on where he goes next is probably my biggest thing that I want to focus on.”
Since Potts confirmed the business would be closing, Jessica Prozinski, a founder of the grassroots activist organization Stop Trump Ann Arbor, has talked with people from local businesses like Gamma Piercing and Eternal Ink about opening a new piercing gallery or tattoo parlor in the space.
“Initially I was thinking it would be cool if it was another piercing place with an owner that would be almost the reverse,” Prozinski said. “Obviously we don’t have the legal power to decide what goes next there, but socially we have a lot of power.”
Stop Trump Ann Arbor is also proposing additions to the Association of Professional Piercers’ “Piercee’s Bill of Rights,” which would assert that people undergoing piercing procedures have the right to not be sexualized or otherwise objectified in the piercing environment and the right to have a friend or relative present in the same room during the piercing.
“The person I talked to was shocked that J.C. discouraged people from having somebody come into the piercing room with them, including, in at least two cases, minor women,” Prozinski said.
According to Potts, his own career “is over.” In a statement he published to YouTube explaining the closure of his business, however, Potts indicated he would continue posting videos to YouTube to discuss the topics surrounding his allegations.
“I’ve said quite a few times that I wish we, as white people, could ever have anything like representation for our interests that wasn’t Richard Spencer or David Duke,” he said. “Well, my career is over, so I will not be bringing you any more piercing content, but seeing as how I guess some of these conversations need to happen, then I guess we’ll be probably checking in with more videos in the future, just definitely not on this channel.”
Prozinski said the video made her worry Potts might try to turn himself “into some sort of white nationalist figure.”
Potts has also threatened legal action against some of the customers who have made claims against him, though Prozinski and Held don’t believe the threats are serious.
Replying to the original viral tweet, Held posted an eight-second video sent to her by another customer, in which Potts can be heard saying, “A lot of really powerful folks out there doing what they can to convince white folks not to breed. OK? And if they do, breed with a black man…”
In response, Potts tweeted, “RELEASE THE REST OF THE VIDEO OR LAWYER UP. This is part of a 2-minute monologue that I KNEW YOU WERE FILMING. I remember you guys.”
Held said the situation reminded her of another in which dozens of people accused Detroit-area tattoo artist Alex Boyko of sexual assault and harassment. Boyko then filed a defamation suit against another tattoo artist who he said was responsible for the flood of accusations.
Last month was not the first time Potts’s behavior has been called into question. Yelp reviews dating back as far as 2010 describe Potts as “bizarrely rude,” “shady” and “intimidating,” recommending future customers avoid him. Several reviews also indicate customers experienced Potts as being racist. In a review from April 13, 2010, a customer wrote, “… my best friend told me that while she was there she heard the owner and one of the piercers guffawing over the fact that the piercer had messed with a couple of Indian women who had come in recently.”
In a review from Sept. 14, 2017, a customer wrote, “All the while, he was endorsing veiled and cryptic pro-Trump rhetoric, and I identify as a queer woman of color and my friend identifies as gay and genderqueer. After this experience, we've undoubtedly decided to never step foot inside this establishment for fear of interacting with him again.”