Michigan Militia offers support to Owosso barber Karl Manke

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OWOSSO (WJRT) (5/13/2020) - Owosso barber Karl Manke had his professional license suspended by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, but he continued operating because he has not yet been served.

Owosso barber Karl Manke's license was suspended, but he continued working in violation of state orders and he plans to fight the action.

What could get in the way of that happening potentially? The Michigan Militia.

"As long as they didn't pull a gun on anyone and shoot anyone in the leg, I didn't care," Manke said of the organization's potential assistance.

Members of the Michigan Home Guard were not outside Manke's barbershop Wednesday. But when they were here over the past few days, they made sure their presence was known.

"Those guys have just as much rights as the rest of us do," Manke said. "They were demonstrating their rights They were behaving themselves. They weren't doing anything."

The Michigan Militia showed up Saturday to let Manke know they have his backing 100% -- ready to block the door if police showed up.

"I think everyone that comes out and supports Karl should protest, because I feel like some of Michigan should open up with regulations and if he wants to work, he should be able to work," said one protester outside 77-year-old Manke's barbershop.

Members came out not to get their hair cut and not just to support Karl, but to express their opposition to how the coronavirus pandemic is being handled in Michigan under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

"Everyone just needs to calm down and have compassion for people who are afraid of the virus and have compassion for people who need to work and put food in their belly," the supporter said.

Manke received word of his license being suspended with an email, but it is not considered official until formal paperwork arrives from Lansing. That could happen within the next day.

After getting the news that his state-issued license was temporarily pulled, it's no surprise the man who has defied the governor's orders for more than a week said he's going to fight it.

Manke defied the government he calls oppressive by opening up his barbershop on May 4. Almost immediately, people started lining up to get their hair cut and show support.

First, the Michigan Attorney General's Office ordered him to shut down. He ignored it and stayed open.

Then a court said there must be a hearing to decide what to do next. He's staying open until that hearing.

Now, the state revoking his license to operate all together.

Manke borrowed a phrase from former President Ronald Reagan to sum up the situation.

"'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.' Those are the words I fear more than anything else," Manke said. "'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.'"

Whitmer's office referred all comment on Manke's license suspension to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which said they cannot comment any further on pending cases.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office issued a licensing complaint on Tuesday alleging several violations of state codes and rules, including gross negligence and willful violations of the health and safety rules.

“Anytime you have a barber or other professional providing services to numerous citizens in close proximity to each other and those citizens are then returning to their various residences, there is a risk of contracting and spreading the virus," Nessel said. "It is paramount that we take action to protect the public and do our part to help save lives.”

A hearing on shutting down Manke's barbershop could be held in the next few weeks.