In an act of protest against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer's stringent stay at home orders to combat the coronavirus infection in Michigan, hundreds of demonstrators—barbers and customers—gathered in front of the state capitol hall in Lansing on Wednesday.
With no regard for safety measures such as wearing a mask or maintaining social distancing, hundreds of people participated in what was called "Operation Haircut," where customers lined up outside the capitol building to receive free haircut from hairstylists.
Fourth Protest in Less than 2 months
The latest protest, the fourth in little over a month, was organized in support of Karl Manke by local conservative groups. Manke was a barber whose license was revoked after he opened his salon in defiance of the anti-virus lockdown rules in early May.
In addition to haircuts, massages were also offered at nominal token sums, and chairs were sanitized after every use. Whitmer, who extended lockdown measures until 28 May, was slammed in the message carrying signs along with the national flag being waved by several protesters. "Whitmer is killing small businesses," a sign read. According to witnesses, several barbers were issued tickets by the police, AFP reported
Late last month, gun-wielding protestors, demanding the relaxation of lockdown measures, entered the Lansing capitol, adding to the growing tensions surrounding the governor's strict stay-at-home orders to contain the spread the of COVID-19 in the state.
One of the Worst-Affected States
With over 53,000 cases and over 5,000 coronavirus deaths, Michigan is one of the worst-hit states by the pandemic. It has also turned into a ground of national debate surrounding the best possible way in which businesses can be allowed to resume operations, to counter the economic fallout of the global crisis. Whitmer was inspecting the damage caused in the central part of the state after two dams gave way due to the calamitous floods in the state. She said that she could relate to the grief caused by the pandemic.
"Every one of us have made sacrifices at some point. Many are mourning the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job, of a business that might not open or survive this," Whitmer said. She further urged protesters to carry out demonstrations in a manner that "does not expose themselves or others to a prolonged public health crisis."
However, cautioning against the non-compliance of safety measures, she stated, "If people protest, I ask that they wear masks and observe the six feet apart, and if they don't, we will have to take some action."