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Huge crowds show, again, for Congressman Amash’s in-person town hall

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
The auditorium at City High Middle School in Grand Rapids sits 600 people.

More than 600 people showed up to a town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Justin Amash Thursday night. It was his second Grand Rapids town hall in less than a month and it was the second time so many people showed up they had to close the doors and turn people away.

Some Michigan members of Congress have been criticized lately for avoiding constituents.

But town halls are not new for Amash. The Republican says he’s always felt taking unscripted questions from his constituents, in person, is part of the job. But under the new administration, the crowds have been major.

“I like to be here hearing the different perspectives. I’m not afraid of my positions. They’re positions I believe in and positions I ran on,” Amash said.

Next time, Amash joked, he might have to hold the town hall at Van Andel Arena.

The generally left-leaning crowd gave Amash heat for supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a bill dismantling the U.S. Education Department. Amash got cheers for his support of immigrant families and civil rights. He told the crowd President Donald Trump needs to release more personal information, up to and including his tax returns if necessary, in order to ease ethical concerns.

But, more than anything, they thanked him for showing up and listening.

16-year old Holly Heathfield came with a group of classmates from Coopersville seeking extra credit in her government class. She asked Amash whether he supported expanded charter schools; she doesn’t, he does.

“Even though I don’t agree with all his views I do respect him for holding these meeting and hearing other people’s opinions. I think that’s really important for the community as a whole,” Heathfield said.

“You can see how hard it is to get people to accept the idea of non-partisan discourse,” Amash said after the event, “Of listening and working together and learning from each other, but I believe that a majority of Americans want something like that.”

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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