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Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Bobby Rush: Despite differences, will work together to combat Gangster Disciples
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) mending fences on Tuesday, agreeing to work together to combat gang violence in Chicago. The two spoke outside Kirk’s Hart Senate Office Building suite. (video by Lynn Sweet)
WASHINGTON–Putting aside differences for now, Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Bobby Rush agreed after a meeting on Tuesday to work together to combat the Gangster Disciples in Chicago, with Kirk promising to tour Chicago’s South Side and consult with Rush “to guide me to the most effective programs that could defeat the gangs.”
After huddling together for almost an hour in Kirk’s Hart Senate Office Building suite, the Illinois lawmakers emerged to discuss what now is their joint approach to battle gangs in Chicago. Neither man took questions from reporters. Rush requested the meeting in the wake of Kirk’s proposal for mass arrests of 18,000 Gangster Disciples in Chicago–and Rush’s own harsh words attacking Kirk as a suburban no-nothing when it came to battling Chicago gangs.
“This meeting shows that Bobby and I can work out any differences because we love Chicago so much that we won’t give up,” Kirk said.
“My feeling is the elected Representative of the First Congressional District knows it best and that he will be able to guide me to the most effective programs that could defeat the gangs. …Bobby and I have agreed to tour the First Congressional District and I have asked him to show me the worst of the worst where officials may fear to tread and actually listed to kids.”
Rush said, “He and I have agreed to not only work together, he said he will visit Englewood and other communities there. I am looking forward to him listening to young people.” Rush gave Kirk a book to read about the high incarceration rates of African Americans and the impact on communities, “The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarcerations in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander.
After that listening tour–no date has yet been set–Rush said “we are going to roll up our sleeves and see what we can do legislatively to impress upon the administration how some of these issues need to be addressed.”
Absent from the remarks of Kirk, a Republican, was the bravado of recent weeks when he announced his proposal for mass arrests of 18,000 Gangster Disciples, to be bankrolled with $30 million he would be requesting from Congress.
Rush, a Democrat, for his part, drastically toned down his rhetoric after offering scathing criticism of Kirk’s plan last week in an interview with the Sun-Times, saying “It’s a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach” that was an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.”
On Tuesday, Kirk and Rush needed each other.
Kirk launched a round of meetings with federal and local law enforcement officials to get input for his arrest plan but did not seek a buy-in from the three Illinois lawmakers–all African-American–whose districts would be most impacted by mass arrests of what would almost most likely be young, African American males. With Congress cash-strapped, Kirk would have a tough time in any case finding $30 million. With Rush and fellow Illinois Democrats Rep. Danny Davis and Rep. Robin Kelly against Kirk’s plan, the path to funding would be almost impossible to find.
Rush found himself criticized for using race-based language in blasting Kirk’s plan. While it is not known if he offered any apology, his new tone seemed to speak for itself.
Kirk never backed down from his mass arrest plan and did not discuss the multi-front assault on youth violence championed by Rush–in particular finding jobs for at risk kids.
Though “we disagree on some aspects” of what to do, Rush said, “…I think over due time, he will understand what is from my perspective a more comprehensive approach.”
As Rush was departing and Kirk turning back towards his office, Kirk paused. He shouted out, “OK Bobby, see you in Englewood.”