by Bruce Walker
Owosso barber Karl Manke was handed fines amounting to $9,000 after defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders in spring 2020.
Manke garnered national headlines when he refused to close his barbershop during a barrage of executive orders issued by the governor that forced the closing of businesses Whitmer deemed nonessential throughout the state. On May 18, 2020, two days prior to the Operation Haircut protests, Manke’s barber license was suspended by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The barber was undeterred, however, and continued to cut hair despite five separate legal actions brought against him by the state.
On Monday, the Michigan Board of Barber Examiners issued fines totaling $3,000 to Manke for violating state sanitation and equipment regulations as well as another $6,000 for giving haircuts during the Operation Haircut protests on the steps of the Lansing Capitol in May 2020.
“Some things that were seen that were very disturbing to say the least, to put it mildly,” barber board member De’Angelo Smith Sr. said, according to reporting from the Detroit News. “The hair, the neck strips, the comb, the clippers – it’s our responsibility to make sure … that we’re putting the public in the most safest place possible as it relates to providing services.”
But Manke’s attorney said the board was acting in a vindictive fashion toward his client.
“One of those $500 fines was for Karl putting a comb in his pocket,” David Kallman, Manke’s attorney, told The Center Square. “But each fine doubles because the board applies them against both Karl’s barber license and the license of his shop.”
In addition to the comb, the state issued sanitation fines for neck strips and hair on the barbershop floor, Kallman said. The attorney noted the violations do not constitute “dire sanitation” risks.
“It’s just outrageous,” Kallman said. “They issued the maximum fines out of pettiness and vindictiveness,” he said. “We’ve won all five cases brought against thus far us by the state, and we’ll be filing an appeal of these fines later on this week.”
Kallman also noted Manke’s appearance at the May 20 Operation Haircut protest was the barber’s exercise of his First Amendment free-speech rights to protest what he considered unconstitutional executive orders to close his business.
“And guess what?” Kallman asked. “The Michigan Supreme Court agreed that Gov. Whitmer’s orders were indeed unconstitutional and illegal so they threw them out. Karl was correct all along.”
Kallman said he has received the go-ahead from Manke to file an appeal of the fines in Shiawassee County.
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Karl Manke Speaking” by Dana Howard.