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C.B.S. tattoo artist Ken Power has no apologies for being an online vigilante

Tattoo artist Ken Power sat down with The Telegram for a candid interview this past week at his shop in Kelligrews.
Tattoo artist Ken Power sat down with The Telegram for a candid interview this past week at his shop in Kelligrews. - Rosie Mullaley

‘I’m not a bad guy. I don’t like bad guys’

The mention of his name can conjure up various opinions from people in this part of the province, depending on who you talk to.

From a distance, Ken Power is seen as a man whose brash social media posts and shocking defiance of the law have garnered plenty of attention.

Known for his fondness for vigilante justice, the 45-year-old Conception Bay South tattoo artist has become notorious for standing up for those, particularly women, whom he believes have been victimized in some way and publicly shaming their alleged attackers — usually men.

It seems nobody is off limits to Power’s wrath.

“Oh, I know people think I’m nuts. I hear it every day,” Power said during a recent interview at his tattoo shop in Kelligrews. “It used to bother me at first, but not anymore.”

He will lash out and discredit anyone he believes deserves it, and makes no bones about it that he would break the neck of someone who tried to hurt anyone he loves.

“I was never, ever one for sugarcoating anything. I’ve always said exactly what I meant,” he said.

“And some people love that about me and some people despise that about me.”

His outspokenness has often gotten him in trouble.

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He recently made headlines after being charged with harassing a man, who Power insists raped a female friend of his. Power not only posted several social media messages lashing out at the man, he called the man’s workplace and left messages warning employees about him. He left his name and number, but the only response he got was from police.

The judge ruled Power crossed the line and convicted him of one count of harassment. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30.

Power insists the man he “called out” is the guilty one, but realizes not everyone understands him, his emotional reactions to things and his passion for standing up for the underdog and doing what he believes is right.

He’s been kicked off Facebook more times than Howard Stern’s commentaries have been censored.

“Zuckerberg, asshole …,” Power said, laughing.

Complaints against him and hostile emails directed at him are common.

“You get all those bigmouths — and there’s only about 20 of them — who always have something to say when my name pops up. They call me a keyboard warrior, which is pretty funny because they do all this yimmer-yammering behind a keyboard. They’re nowhere to be found. I’ve never seen any of these people in my life.

“I’m not a bad guy. I don’t like bad guys. I don’t feel I should have to be quiet about it. The public jumps to conclusions, but they don’t ask questions. Nobody asks me anything. It’s just wilful ignorance. They don’t care.”

Power consistently receives death threats and obscene phone calls.

“We’ve had to unplug the phone, there were so many hang-up calls and deep-breathers.”

About six years ago, his business was targeted by arsonists, who threw a Molotov cocktail through the window. A year later, his car was burned in his driveway.

“(Not long ago) at least once a month, the cops would show up at my place because of someone complaining about something I said or they say I did,” Power said, leaning back to shift positions in a leather chair. “I’ve had cops here because of memes I’ve posted on Facebook! It’s nuts.”

Spend an afternoon with Power and it’s clear to see he’s as multi-faceted as his tattoos and the artwork that cover the walls of his shop.

He can spend hours talking about sexual assault victims, the “f---ing assholes” he says get away with it and the justice system that he believes often prevents perpetrators from being convicted. Yet minutes later, he reveals his relentless devotion to his family and his loyalty to friends and the people who actually know him.

Power is the proud father of two children.

His son, Andrew, known as Hellvetika, is a world-renowned drag queen in New York City.

“He’s pretty artistic, too,” Power said.

His daughter, Emma, is a fourth-year mechanical engineering university student with a passion for environmentalism.

“She’s brilliant,” he said, adding she finished Grade 10 with a 100 per cent average.

His wife, Lisa, is a nurse who he fell in love with in eighth grade, when they were in school band together. He says his love for her has never waned.

“She’s the anchor of the family. Everything revolves around her. She’s the sun,” he said, speaking in a softer tone. “Without her, it would be a completely different story.”

It was Lisa who brought him to see a doctor when, about eight years ago, he was having an emotional breakdown.

“I got to the point where I was pretty much crying every day,” said Power, who after experiencing symptoms for most of his life, was finally diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

“My wife took me to the doctor. I couldn’t even speak for myself. It got that far gone. She made sure I was taken care of. If she hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have made it.”

In 2008, his anxiety also forced him to quit powerlifting, a sport in which he had won provincial titles.

“It just took over my life. It’s all I thought about,” said Power, who also quit jujitsu for the same reason.

His anxiety also almost cost him his business.

“Things that were fun to me just weren’t anymore,” Power said. “I almost quit tattooing.”

He speaks highly of his parents. His mother died of ovarian cancer in 2012 at the age of 59 and his father died in 2015 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Power — who began drawing as a child and painting when he was a teenager — got his artistic talents from his father, a talented painter. A large painting of his dad’s of a train alongside a body of water hangs in his tattoo studio.

Power worked as a print artist for 10 years, specializing in Newfoundland scenery and portraiture before being hired as a tattoo apprentice at St. John’s Ink.

“I didn’t know anything about tattooing, but I knew how to paint and draw,” said Power.

“I only had three little tattoos at that point. People used to ask me why I didn’t have any tattoos. I thought you had to be nuts to get (large) tattoos.”

He opened his own business six years ago and business has been booming, and he has numerous loyal customers.

“The demand (for tattoos) is endless. If you could stay awake, you could tattoo 24/7, it’s that busy. But I learned not to do that.

“I used to tattoo seven days a week, but it took a toll,” said Power, who wears a brace on his right forearm after developing carpal tunnel syndrome and condylitis (better known as tennis elbow).

“I was never injured in power lifting, but I managed to injure myself tattooing.”

He says he’s able to express himself more through tattooing and can create outrageous artwork — “the zombies, heavy metal, teeth with dripping blood.”

Power also inherited his father’s sarcasm and desire to help the underdog.

“My dad was big on anti-bullying. He always told me not to take that stuff and don’t let other people take it,” Power said.

“I was a nervous kid, but if I saw someone getting picked on, I was the first to speak up. Or if I thought something was stupid, I’d be the first to say it.”

He started to get noticed on social media a few years ago when, he said, he was accused of creating a Facebook page that discredited terrible tattoo artists and a Twitter account pretending to be someone else.

“I’ll respond to these people. I’ll message them and say, ‘What are you talking about?’ And they’ll mouth off and I’ll tell them I’m going to rip your head off and then I’m the bully. Then they’ll call police, crying,” he said.

“I have plenty of supporters, but the problem is, the people who despise me usually have bigger mouths than the people who are supportive,” Power said.

But he soon realized people were listening and he decided to use the social media platforms “to do something good.”

Power said he knows the risks, but women who are sexually assaulted need a voice.

“It’s so preposterous to me, the hoops someone has to jump through to be heard about being sexually assaulted,” he said.

“I’m sure (my actions) are not (appropriate) in some instances. I don’t see it as clearly as others, because to me, these things are trivial.

“For example, if someone’s feelings get hurt because their friend is a rapist, I really could care less. That is not the issue. I’m not going to be quiet because his guy’s family is going to get hurt because their son is a rapist. My concern is for the girl he raped.”

In his current court case, he admits he should have gone to the police first before leaving messages, but Power said he’s gone to the police before, to no avail.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong,” he said. “The perception is a vigilante, and I’ve had people tell me I think I’m above the law. No, I just don’t think the law is doing its job. I don’t think they’re listening and I don’t think they’re evolving with the times.”

He admits it’s difficult not to react to abuse.

“Oh, it’s tough. I see what I’m doing and I understand how (it’s perceived). Maybe there’s a compulsion there, I don’t know,” said Power, who has received counselling.

“But when I see a picture of a girl with her mouth cut open after her boyfriend punched her in the face, it’s immediate anger. I don’t know if I’ll be able to let go of that. It rings my bell.”

When asked if he would actually hurt someone if pushed, Power replied, “You bet your ass I would. Yeah, absolutely, 100 per cent.”

But he realizes the negative impact his actions are having on his life.

Not only are his wife and kids, and many of his friends, getting a hard time from others, Power has also taken a financial loss. He’s lost tattoo customers, and lost one of his other businesses. Power — who plays guitar in heavy-metal band Most Likely Forever — used to be part owner of the bar Valhalla in downtown St. John’s, but due to the negative attention, his co-owner asked him nicely to step away. He agreed.

However, he said he’s prepared to accept whatever sentence the judge gives him and won’t appeal.

“I accept the consequences,” he said. “But I don’t make any apologies.”

But he said he does plan to tame his ways.

“I’m just going to let it go,” said Power, adding that he continues to get messages from women who say they were victimized. “It’s at the end of its cycle. There’s only so much you can stand up for people. They have to stand up for themselves.”

 

rosiemullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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