Judge dismisses charges against 6 hair stylists at Michigan protest

Annette Rafacz gives Manny Orovcoa a free haircut 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) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LANSING, Mich. – A judge dismissed disorderly conduct charges Monday against six hair stylists who were ticketed last spring during a protest at the Michigan Capitol.

The women were cutting hair to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's decision to keep barber shops and salons closed for nearly three months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The women argued that the tickets had to be dismissed after the state Supreme Court in October said many Whitmer orders were issued under an unconstitutional law.

Lansing District Judge Kristen Simmons granted the request. The attorney general's office didn't respond to the dismissal request and didn't attend the hearing, said David Kallman, an attorney for the women.

“It is a relief that they no longer face the prospect of having a criminal record and potential jail time for merely exercising their right to peaceably speak out,” Kallman said.

The state chose not to continue pursuing the misdemeanor cases, although the women still face administrative action related to their licenses, said Ryan Jarvi, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Many barbers and hair stylists emerged as activists in Michigan, inspired by the defiance of Karl Manke, a barber in Owosso, who dared state authorities to shut him down. He cut hair for free at the Capitol with a “Freedom!!!” banner behind him.