Members of the Michigan militia said they won't allow police to arrest 77-year-old Karl Manke who opened his Owosso barbershop last week in defiance of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's coronavirus shutdown order, WEYI-TV reported.
"We are here to make sure he doesn't get arrested," Daniel Brewer told the station Saturday. "We're willing to stand in front of that door and block the entrance so the police will have no entry there today."
The barbershop has been open since last Monday against state order and received a packed lobby of customers his first morning — as well as two citations before Friday, WEYI said in a previous story.
Still dozens of supporters gathered outside Manke's barbershop Saturday, and 15 customers were waiting in line outside the door for haircuts.
'I was denied twice on unemployment'
Manke told the station he followed Whitmer's shutdown order for as long as he could — but after multiple extensions of the order and no money coming in after being twice denied unemployment, he had to return to work.
"I'm not trying to be a scofflaw. I'm trying to make a living," he told WEYI. "I tried for the unemployment. I was denied twice on unemployment. I haven't seen anything in one these other checks from the government."
Manke speaking inside his barbershop as he was cutting a customer's hair told the Detroit Free Press that Whitmer "is not my mother" and "I just made an adult decision that I was gonna open up."
Michigan barber shop reopens despite shutdown: Gov. Whitmer is 'not my mother' youtu.be
'Imminent danger to the public health'
On Friday night, state police issued Manke a health protection order from state Attorney General Dana Nessel's office demanding he close his shop, noting that customers from Ann Arbor, Saginaw, Detroit, Jackson, and other areas have visited his business, which raises the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the station said.
More from Nessel's order, according to WEYI:
Mr. Manke was given every opportunity to voluntarily comply with the Governor's Executive Order and the order of the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Director. As a result of his continued operation, today his business was deemed an imminent danger to the public health and ordered to be shut down by the DHHS Director. If he refuses, the Department of Attorney General will request an order from the Shiawassee County Circuit Court on Monday to close his business. Mr. Manke's actions are not a display of harmless civil disobedience. His actions are counterproductive to the collective effort businesses and communities everywhere have made to slow the spread of COVID-19, and by opening the doors to his business, he's putting the lives of many more Michiganders at risk.
Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told the station in a statement that "people continue to die in our state every day due to the coronavirus. It is critically important for businesses and the general public to follow the executive order to reduce further spread of COVID-19 and save lives."
The state health department also has been handing out free condoms and lubricant to help residents protect themselves against unintended pregnancy, STIs, and HIV.
What did Whitmer have to say?
Whitmer has been under fire for weeks with protests and demonstrations over her shutdown. She's prohibited residents from visiting friends and family who live a few doors away and barred them from buying vegetable seeds and gardening supplies at a store. In fact, the state House and Senate sued Whitmer over her shutdown extension, which now will last until May 28.
But when asked about Menke's plight and his defiance of her order, the governor said it was all about saving his life and the lives of his customers:
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks out about barber who is defying her order to stay closed. youtu.be