A Michigan State Police trooper talks with hair stylist Jody Hebberd while giving free haircuts at the State Capitol during a rally in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Barbers and hair stylists are protesting the state's stay-at-home orders, a defiant demonstration that reflects how salons have become a symbol for small businesses that are eager to reopen two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
A Michigan State Police trooper talks with hair stylist Jody Hebberd while giving free haircuts at the State Capitol during a rally in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Barbers and hair stylists are protesting the state's stay-at-home orders, a defiant demonstration that reflects how salons have become a symbol for small businesses that are eager to reopen two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Hundreds of Michiganders lined up for as many as 25 stylists at Lansing’s Operation Haircut, risking coronavirus infection for a free trim and a chance to protest Gov. Whitmer’s protections.

LANSING, MI — Hair clippers buzzed on the lawn of the Capitol Building as hundreds of protesters, many without masks, crowded around stylists giving free haircuts as a way to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus protections Wednesday. 

Operation Haircut was fueled by the Owosso barber who lost his license for refusing to stay closed to prevent the spread of the pandemic that has now killed more than 5,000 Michiganders.  As The ‘Gander reported, Attorney General Dana Nessel made it clear that the barber, 77-year-old Karl Manke, is not a hero but she had no desire to arrest him.

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“We’re not looking to throw people in jail,” she said. “That is, to me, a very, very, very last resort. We want him to discontinue his conduct, which we think is aiding and abetting in the spread of the virus.”

Manke addressed the crowd and defied social distancing measures to cut more hair at the Operation Haircut protest. 

Carolyn Kirin wears curlers in her hair at a rally giving free haircuts at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Barbers and hair stylists are protesting the state’s stay-at-home orders, a defiant demonstration that reflects how salons have become a symbol for small businesses that are eager to reopen two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Risks of Rushing

The state’s economic re-engagement plan, MI Safe Start, decides what businesses can and can’t reopen based on the risk they pose when it comes to spreading the coronavirus. Because stylists can’t engage in social distancing, salons and barber shops are likely among the last places that will be allowed to open again.

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And many of the stylists and those seeking haircuts Wednesday weren’t even wearing masks. 

In addition to her mandated orders to follow social distancing guidelines, Gov. Whitmer has repeatedly urged protestors to follow safety precautions for everyone’s safety. 

“It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay, if it makes you feel better to direct it at me, it’s okay to do that too, I’ve got thick skin,” Whitmer said of the first pandemic protest, Operation Gridlock. “I just ask that those that are protesting these orders do so in a safe manner so you don’t get sick and so you don’t subject our first responders to risk either.”

Three barbers received tickets for $500 as a result of a disorderly conduct citation after ignoring warnings from state police officers during the protest, reports the Washington PostOther reports say the fine was as high as $1,000.

A protester with a rifle, left, watches Linda Hicks, seated, receive a free haircut from Teresa Luks, right, at the State Capitol during a rally in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Barbers and hair stylists are protesting the state’s stay-at-home orders, a defiant demonstration that reflects how salons have become a symbol for small businesses that are eager to reopen two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A Radical Standpoint

“@GovWhitmer  having that state police give citations at the haircut protest in Lansing today proves you are drunk with power,” one protester tweeted. “You have overstepped your authority several times.  I hope the legislation brings you up on charges of tyranny.”

That echoes statements of protesters at the previous three demonstrations, including one protester who threatened to “water the tree of liberty” with Whitmer’s blood and another saying she, as a tyrant, should be hanged

The protest officially was scheduled from noon to 3 P.M. Wednesday, but hundreds began to gather as early as 11 A.M. according to social media posts across multiple platforms.

The protest also drew out support from a group affiliated with something called QAnon, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a conspiracy theory popular among antigovernment extremists, many of who express themselves violently. 

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As The ‘Gander has reported, Operation Haircut was planned by the same group that planned Operation Gridlock, the Michigan Conservative Coalition. That Coalition is funded by Greg McNeilly, a political adviser to the DeVos family whose notable members include Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.