Michigan Judge Rules in Favor of Lockdown-Defying Barber, Will Not Shut Him Down

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Posted: May 21, 2020 7:30 PM
Michigan Judge Rules in Favor of Lockdown-Defying Barber, Will Not Shut Him Down

Source: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Update: Judge Matthew Stewart of the Shiawassee County Circuit Court in Michigan refused to force Karl Manke to shut down his barber shop on Thursday, ahead of a deadline imposed by the Court of Appeals. State Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has fought to close Manke down and stop him from giving haircuts intends to appeal the decision.

Original Story: The revolt of the American small business owners against draconian shutdowns is headed for court today as a Michigan judge will decide the fate of a 77-year-old barber. Karl Manke was ordered this month to close his barber shop in Owosso for violating Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order. If he chose not to close, Manke faced thousand of dollars in fines and up to one year in jail for each haircut he gave. He did not close. 

"I’m 77," Manke said of the threats. "What, are they going to give me? Life? I’ve got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I could care less." Manke persevered, continuing to offer haircuts while adhering to sanitation and social distancing measures recommended by health experts. Gov. Whitmer has been widely criticized for her strict lockdown orders that have confused residents and continued to strangle the state's economy. 

For power-hungry Michigan lawmakers, however, Manke's buck against the stay-at-home order was rebellion gone too far. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs suspended Manke’s hair-cutting license, which went into effect last Thursday. Manke suspended operations for a few days but as of Tuesday, he was back to cutting hair. 

Judge Matthew Stewart of the Shiawassee County Circuit Court denied a motion for an immediate restraining order filed against Manke and his business. The state Attorney General Dana Nessel filed an emergency appeal on that decision asserting Manke's continued operation posed a threat to public health. 

Small business owners in Michigan and around the country have rallied behind Manke as he fights for the survival of his small hair cutting operation. Dallas hair salon owner Shelley Luther stood with Manke this week as the barber called on businesses throughout Michigan to open their doors. Luther was briefly jailed for refusing to close her Dallas salon, which drew national support and a call from Texas Governor Abbott to release her. 

"Michigan — all of you business owners, you beauticians, you barbers, you massage therapists, all of you — open up your shops, stand up and show up," Manke said on Monday. A protest organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition called "Operation Haircut," gathered in the state capital of Lansing on Wednesday. They rallied for the rights of small business owners across the state and said they drew inspiration from Manke's ordeal. Manke was present and cutting hair as part of the protest. 

Earlier this week, the Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Stewart, who had previously ruled in Manke's favor, must decide by the end of the day on Thursday whether to shut down the elderly barber or allow him to continue against the stay-at-home order. 

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