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White House: Trump agrees with Dingell on march

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

President Donald Trump has a “healthy respect” for free speech rights and agrees with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan that many women who participated in protest marches this weekend did so for “positive reasons,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday.

Dingell, D-Dearborn, joined the massive “Women’s March” in Washington, D.C., on Saturday and was set to travel home for sister rallies in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti later that day.

Similar events in Detroit, Lansing and other Michigan cities drew large crowds of peaceful protesters, many sharing their fears for the next four years under Trump, a Republican businessman.

Dingell has repeatedly stressed the positive nature of the marches. And Spicer, in his first White House daily press briefing, referenced comments he said Dingell made on television earlier Monday morning.

“She said, ‘different women were there for different reasons, but they were all there to make sure that their core American values are going to be protected, and I think many people like me were there for positive reasons,’ ” Spicer recounted. “I think the president shares Debbie Dingell’s views.”

Dingell’s office said Spicer was referencing her morning interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

“This march took place the day after the inauguration for a reason — millions of women came together to march for fairness, equality and inclusion, because there is a sense of fear and unease that those basic values won’t be protected,” said Dingell spokeswoman Hannah Smith. “It’s great the president agrees with Congresswoman Dingell and the millions of people who marched that those values should be protected, and she hopes he’ll back up those words with actions.”

Dingell’s husband, former Rep. John Dingell, also weighed in.

“I’m wise enough to know: 1) not to tell my wife what she meant. 2) that if a million women marched to my house, I’d probably listen to them,” he wrote late Monday afternoon on Twitter.

Trump was initially dismissive of the Saturday marches, questioning whether demonstrators had voted in the election he won. But he softened his tone Sunday morning on Twitter, writing that peaceful protests are “a hallmark of our democracy.”

Women and allies who attended the various marches criticized some of Trump’s past comments and policy positions. They spoke up on issues as individuals, including reproductive rights, worker pay, immigration, gay rights and health care access.

While many spread affirmative messages of hope, others made clear they were protesting as an act of resistance, carrying signs with slogans like “Not My President,” “traitor” and “you can’t comb-over bigotry.”

Dingell, in a Saturday interview with The Detroit News, said the D.C. gathering was a celebration of women from all kinds of backgrounds who love their country and want to make sure everyone’s rights are protected.

“Today is a day of positiveness,” she said.

Spicer echoed the sentiment Monday, saying the combination of Friday’s inauguration and Saturday’s march is “what makes our country so beautiful.”

Trump is “also cognizant that a lot of these people were there to protest an issue of concern to them and not against anything,” he said.

Organizers followed up Saturday’s march by launching a campaign asking attendees to take 10 actions in 100 days, beginning by sending a postcard to their U.S. senators.

“I’m part of the #WomensMarch movement. I’m from ____ and I’m concerned about ____,” reads the template. “Here’s why: ____”

joosting@detroitnews.com