Karl Manke

Owosso barber Karl Manke addresses a crowd on May 18. 

(The Center Square) – Michiganders who have grown shaggy during the state's nearly two-month lockdown can get free haircuts on the Capitol lawn from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday during a protest held by the Michigan Conservative Coalition (MCC).

“Operation Haircut” aims to highlight service workers whose duties require close human contact. The event is inspired by Owosso barber Karl Manke, who opened his shop in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order, and then had his license suspended by the state.

MCC Spokesperson Matt Seely told The Center Square that between 25 and 35 personal service professionals, including barbers, hairstylists, massage therapists, and dog groomers will set up a workspace on the Capitol lawn.

“It’s just to bring awareness that these are real people with real lives, and they’re suffering because their livelihood has been taken from them and there’s no end in sight to this particular order,” Seely said, explaining many industry workers fear a further extension.

About 299 people marked they are “going” on Facebook. Seely said that social distancing practices are required.

Stylists are asked to wear personal protective equipment, bring a chair and table, and clean equipment before each cut.

Organizers asked participants to wear a mask and to use disinfectant wipes.

The event's goal is to motivate Whitmer to allow these industries to reopen.

“We’re basically going to demonstrate we can safely let these people [work] and not have it impact the health of anybody in Michigan in a negative way,” Seely said.

He pointed to declining COVID-19 case numbers in states like Georgia, where facilities including barbers and gyms reopened, to argue that it’s possible to enter “the new normal” safely.

Tips are optional but encouraged. Whitmer ordered hair salons and other businesses she deemed nonessential to close almost two months ago in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“[Workers] are doing it to raise awareness that they’re real people; they’re human beings with stories and mortgages and car payments … and they’re job is essential to their families,” Seely said. “This has gone on way too long, and it’s unsustainable.”

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.