A judge on Thursday rejected a request to force scissors out of the hands of a defiant Michigan barber during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state health department failed to show that Karl Manke’s shop was a specific threat to public health, Shiawassee County Judge Matthew Stewart said.
Manke reopened his shop in Owosso on May 4, drawing customers from across the state who were inspired by his plea for freedom from a government shutdown.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said barber shops and hair salons are risky places because of the contagious virus.
Manke, 77, has received at least two tickets for violating Whitmer’s orders, and his barber license was suspended last week. Nonetheless, he said he’s still cutting hair — ‘Oh, heavens yes’ — including the hair of a two-year-old Thursday.
‘Listen, I’ve been in this business for 59 years. She wants to come cut my hands off, that’s another story,’ Manke said in an interview, referring to the governor.
An Owosso police officer asks to talk with Karl Manke outside before ticketing Karl for being open at Karl’s barber shop on Wednesday, May 6. A judge on Thursday ruled he stay open
Barber Karl Manke cuts hair at the Michigan Conservative Coalition organized “Operation Haircut” outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday
He was one of a dozen barbers and hair stylists who defied stay-at-home orders to give free hair cuts outside the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday.
Manke said he needs to work and can keep his shop and customers safe. He has been hailed as a hero by some people who have driven an hour or more to get a haircut.
‘The government is not my mother, never has been,’ Manke said Monday. ‘I’ve been in business longer than they´ve been alive.’
Earlier, a judge held a hearing via video conference on the Whitmer administration’s request for an injunction to close the shop. More than 400 people watched online as the state argued that Manke was violating health department orders.
‘People can’t simply say, ‘I don’t agree’ and do whatever they want,’ Assistant Attorney General Joseph Potchen said. ‘It’s not how our legal system works.’
Manke reopened his shop in Owosso on May 4, drawing customers from across the state who were inspired by his plea for freedom from a government shutdown
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said barber shops and hair salons are risky places because of the contagious virus
But Stewart said photos and an affidavit from Michigan’s chief medical executive weren’t enough to show that hair cutting and the shop conditions would contribute to the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19.
‘That’s not enough to tip the scales, no matter how great the public emergency,’ said Stewart, who nonetheless called it a ‘close call.’
He repeatedly noted that authorities could have arrested Manke if they believed his shop was a steady danger.
‘You can’t just argue COVID is awful, it’s killing people. Who disputes that?’ Manke’s attorney, Dave Kallman, said later. ‘They have to show the barber shop is spreading the virus. The judge saw it clearly.’
While Manke’s case was in court, Whitmer lifted restrictions on more parts of Michigan’s economy, although barber shops and hair salons weren’t included.
With his outspoken, gregarious style, Manke has become a hero to some people. He cut hair for free Wednesday during a protest at the Capitol.
A judge held a hearing via video conference on the Whitmer administration’s request for an injunction to close the shop. More than 400 people watched online as the state argued that Manke was violating health department orders
Pandemic politics also shadowed President Donald Trump’s trip to Michigan on Thursday.
Trump visited Ypsilanti, outside Detroit, to tour a Ford Motor Co. factory that had been repurposed to manufacture ventilators, the medical breathing machines governors begged for during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But his arrival came amid a long-running feud with the state’s Democratic governor and a day after the president threatened to withhold federal funds over the state’s expanded vote-by-mail effort.
And, again, the president did not wear a face covering despite a warning from the state’s top law enforcement officer that a refusal to do so might lead to a ban on Trump″s return.
Trump on Thursday offered veiled criticism of Whitmer and other Democratic governors, suggesting that they were proceeding too slowly in reopening their states’ economies.
Last month, Trump tweeted ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN’ as residents there and in other states began holding protests against orders to stay at home.