Brad Shepler had had enough.
Brad is a barber in my own East Pennsboro Township, which is located on the West Shore of the Susquehanna River, right across from the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg. He runs his own small barber shop on the lower level of the home he shares with his wife and two daughters.
Out of the blue Brad now finds himself at the very center of a titanic struggle with no less than the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf.
Democrat Wolf, in the authoritarian manner that seems to be a political trait of Democrats in governor’s mansions and city halls across the country, has locked down the entire state, eventually color-coding the state’s 67 counties to decide when they can allow businesses like Brad’s to reopen.
In a classic example of American civil disobedience, Brad not only refused, he quickly posted to his Facebook page, along with the video of his visit from the police.
As the family breadwinner, Brad finally had enough. He had to reopen his barber shop or lose both his business and the ability to support his wife and girls. So he did so — and in a blink there were East Pennsboro police officers at his door. Brad had the foresight to video the encounter — found below in the link to coverage from ABC 27 TV — in which one of the two officers on camera politely and courteously informed Brad that he was in violation of the order from Gov. Wolf that required him to keep his barber shop closed. With equal politeness, Brad explained that he had to take care of his family and he had a constitutional right to reopen his business as a governor’s “order” did not supplant his constitutional rights.
And down came the governor’s hammer. The hammer appeared in the form of a letter from one Carolyn DeLaurentis, the deputy chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Department of State. After running through a litany of complaints, DeLaurentis closed by saying this — which she put in bold print. Her letter, which Brad posted on his Facebook page, closed with this:
Be advised that if you continue operating in violation of the Governor’s order that could result in the filing of formal charges against you, which could result in the suspension or revocation of your license(s), up to a $10,000 civil penalty per violation, and the imposition of the costs of investigation.
In a classic example of American civil disobedience, Brad not only refused, but also quickly posted the letter to his Facebook page, along with the video of his visit from the police. In a blink, everyone from Republican state legislators to his fellow citizens rallied to Brad to join in this sudden fight against a bullying governor carried away with his imagined power.
Yesterday, there was a rally outside Brad’s shop. Penn Live, the online site for the state capital area’s major newspaper, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, headlined the story this way:
‘Stand up with me’: Crowd, GOP politicians roar support for central Pa. barber defying COVID-19 closure order
The Penn Live story said, in part, this:
West Shore barber Brad Shepler has rapidly become a symbol of the growing revolt against Gov. Tom Wolf’s order closing non-life-essential businesses over the coronavirus.
That was unmistakable Thursday morning, two days after state officials threatened to revoke Shepler’s barbering license and fine him up to $10,000 a day for reopening his East Pennsboro Township shop in violation of the closure edict.” …
Republican State Senator Mike Regan called the governor’s actions cowardly and incompetent. State Representative Greg Rothman said … “We trust the people of Pennsylvania to do the right thing, to be safe. We’re better than this.”
(Full disclosure: Sen. Regan and Rep. Rothman are my own representatives in the Pennsylvania Legislature.)
The Penn Live story goes on to say this of Brad:
It was Shepler, however, who gave the most moving address to the crowd. He had to hold back tears while delivering it.
“You need to realize, we’re all losing our rights as American citizens. And we should all be afraid of that,” Shepler said. “I would like to ask all small business owners who want to get back to work, Stand up with me.”
The rally outside Brad’s shop was covered by ABC 27’s Mark Hall and can be found here.
Decades ago there was a popular rock song by the late Janis Joplin called “Me and Bobby McGee.” It included these lines:
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, it ain’t nothin’ honey, if it ain’t free.
Forced between a choice of losing his business, the livelihood that fed his family — and freedom? Brad had nothing left to lose, no matter what a bullying governor drunk with power would do to him.
This battle is not over yet. Brad could use your prayers. But all of this has now made Brad Shepler, a humble barber in the middle of Pennsylvania, a genuine American hero.
Good for him. And good for America.