Small-town barber wins early victory in fight to stay open

A judge has declined to stop a defiant Michigan barber who reopened his shop despite a state order that closed businesses because of the coronavirus

The judge rejected a request for a restraining order and said Karl Manke deserves a hearing if the state wants to shut down his business in Owosso, a small town 40 miles (65 kilometers) northeast of the state Capitol.

The 77-year-old has become a symbol of resistance to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s sweeping stay-home order and other restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

“I came into this last Monday alone, thinking I’m going to swing in the wind alone," Manke said, lowering his face mask and fighting back tears. "I cannot believe the support that I’ve got. It’s overwhelming.”

Supporters outside his shop chanted, “Karl! Karl!”

Manke reopened his barber shop on May 4, saying he was despondent over not working and that he could make his own decisions.

Manke was given a cease-and-desist order from state regulators last week. Separately, he’s been given at least two misdemeanor tickets by police. Meanwhile, people from all over Michigan have filled his shop waiting for a haircut.

“I'm going to stay open until Jesus comes,” Manke pledged.

The governor was asked about the barber earlier Monday.

“I also know a lot of people who could use a haircut, yours truly included as well as my husband. ... I expect people to follow the law,” Whitmer said. “These executive orders are not a suggestion. They’re not optional. They’re not helpful hints.”

Manke's attorney, Dave Kallman, said the state has gone too far.

“If you can walk down the aisles at Walmart, you can walk down the aisles in Karl’s barber shop and practice the same physical distancing, hand-washing, all the things we’ve been hearing on and on,” Kallman said.

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