OWOSSO, MICH (WXYZ) — A Dallas salon owner jailed for refusing to stay closed to stop the spread of COVID-19 is in Michigan. She joined protesters gathered in Owosso to show support for Karl Manke, the barber whose license is ordered suspended for violating an order to shut down.
A demonstration was planned outside Manke’s business for the visit. Some protesters stood for more than an hour in the rain holding signs, waving American flags or Donald Trump flags. They then gathered under a small tent, shoulder to shoulder, most not wearing masks, to listen to speakers. Their message? It is time to reopen businesses in Michigan.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials have closed many businesses and impost a stay-at-home order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We continue to need to take important precautions. This virus is still a threat no matter what part of the state you are in. Wear a mask when you are out in public…” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the MDHHS Chief Medical Executive during a press conference Monday. “Maintain a 6-foot distance from others. Do not gather in large groups. And continue to wash your hands repetitively.”
Karl Manke, the owner of Manke Barber and Beauty Shop in Shiawasee County’s Owosso, said he believes the state has overreacted to the virus. His business’ license is suspended for defying orders to close.
Shelley Luther, the owner of Salon A La Mode in Dallas,Texas, spent two nights in jail for defying orders and opening her business. She drove to Michigan because she says she knows how Manke feels.
They both insist their original motivations were not political, even if it has become political.
“I was a simple hometown barber, 77-years-old, grandfather, just wanting to open my business," Manke said. "Just wanting my income back, my livelihood back."
Luther added, “I didn’t open for political reasons. My hair stylists weren’t able to feed their families. I was a month late on my mortgage. When the government help isn’t coming, and they keep shutting us down and pushing the date back, they force our hands on this. We didn’t have a choice."
They both have GoFundMe accounts. Manke’s has raised more than $66,000. Luther’s has raised about half a million and she said she will use it to help others. Critics have suggested they are doing this for money.
“My GoFundMe was made for attorney fees.," Luther said. "I was jailed and I happen to wake up and there was a lot of money in my GoFundMe and I had nothing to do with it."
As 7 Action News Reporter Kim Russell interviewed them, like most of their supporters, they didn’t wear a mask.
“I am building my immune system,” Manke said.
The CDC has suggested everyone practice social distancing and wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus. These business owners say they do not believe there is enough scientific evidence to warrant doing so.
“In order to open, if that is what it takes to open, then of course we will wear the masks,” Luther said.
This is not the only demonstration this week. On Wednesday they are taking part in what they call Operation Haircut in Lansing, with the message that they should be allowed to open.
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