Barbers to offer free haircuts in Michigan to protest lockdown

Yahoo reports barbers plan to offer free haircuts on the Michigan Capitol lawn to protest the state’s stay-at-home orders, a defiant demonstration that reflects how salons have become a symbol for small businesses that are eager to reopen two months after the pandemic began.

Third-generation hairdresser Scott Weaver, who owns five salons across Michigan, said his “forgotten industry” is getting much-needed attention after being initially dismissed as “just hair.”

Barbershops, salons and spas stand at the forefront of small businesses that want to open again despite the risks of their services, which require employees to be in close contact with customers — similar to medical or dental care. The coronavirus has contributed to more than 5,000 confirmed deaths in Michigan, the fourth-highest toll in the country. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s closure of nonessential businesses is among the nation’s toughest and is in effect at least through May 28.

Weaver credits a 77-year-old barber with helping to fuel the movement to resist Whitmer’s sweeping stay-at-home orders.

But Weaver said Karl Manke’s decision to open his doors in violation of the governor’s mandate has put Whitmer and law enforcement in a tough spot. He said Michigan’s 75,000 barbers and cosmetologists have “been heard” and that they should focus on working with her administration to ensure a safe reopening.

“I can truly see this through both lenses,” said Weaver, who does not plan to attend the protest scheduled for Wednesday.

While new infections have flattened, Whitmer, a Democrat, is being cautious with what she calls a “slow re-engagement.” She has opened construction, manufacturing and outdoor industries, along with real estate. Restaurants and bars reopen Friday in less populated northern Michigan.

“I would love to go get my hair done, too,” Whitmer told Kalamazoo television station WWMT after saying it is “very unlikely” salons will open next week. “But the nature of that personal service is such that it’s intimate, it’s close. You can’t social distance and get your hair cut.”

Monday, Dallas Salon owner Shelley Luther posted on Facebook:

So fortunate to have barber, Karl Manke, in my corner. His shop in Michigan will STAY open. What a sweet man!  The rally in Owosso was a success! — attending Stand With Karl Manke at Karl Manke’s Barber & Beauty Shop.

CBSLocal reports Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther, who was sent to jail for opening her business during the coronavirus outbreak, is publicly supporting a Michigan barber whose license was suspended.

Luther was in Owosso, Michigan, appearing with barber Karl Manke. She called Governor Gretchen Whitmer a “tyrant” who will be voted out of office.

The salon owner was sentenced to jail in Texas for flouting orders intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus but was released less than 48 hours later.

Whitmer has defended Michigan’s business restrictions as an important way to stop the virus.

Bars and restaurants can reopen Friday in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula.