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Rep. Rush and Sen. Kirk tour Englewood, still differ on how to fight violence

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill. left) Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) discuss solutions address urban violence community needs Chicago's Englewood neighborhood

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill., left) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) discuss solutions to address urban violence and community needs in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood at a news conference on Thursday. | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 1, 2013 6:45AM

As U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush gave Sen. Mark Kirk a guided tour of Englewood from the safety of a bus Thursday afternoon, they rolled by the aftermath of a shooting outside a school at lunch time, punctuating the problem the South Side community faces.

“I would like to crush the Gangster Disciples as an organization,” Kirk said after the tour. “I think the federal government should have the capability to do that.”

Rush brushed off Kirk’s comment and said the idea of the Gangster Disciples as an organized group is a “myth” and a “figment of Kirk’s imagination.”

“We have armed cliques fighting one another, there’s no super structure mega-gang Al Capone outfit that exists in Chicago,” Rush said.

Kirk disagreed, citing information he had received from Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

Their tour bus passed a web of yellow police tape that cordoned off the 6500 block of South May, where a man was shot in the buttocks near Bass Elementary School about 12:20 p.m.

“I’m glad that Mark is here,” Rush said. “We have a Republican senator here in Englewood that experienced it firsthand.”

Kirk said of the tour: “It was pretty shocking, what I saw. A lot of despair.”

Both men called for a bipartisan effort to bring resources into the Englewood neighborhood to promote investment and fight crime.

“We need money. We need jobs. We need jobs. We need jobs,” Rush said.

Kirk said it was imperative not to “succumb to the tyranny of low expectations.”

Kirk proposed granting anyone who invested in commercial property a 10-year waiver on federal taxes. He also suggested hiring workers to maintain shuttered buildings that, until recently, housed South Side elementary schools.

“We won’t give up on this community at all. We’ll just keep going and fight the gangs and take them out,” Kirk said.

Both men planned to form an advisory panel made up of people who have lost a loved ones to gun violence.

Deanna Woods, whose niece, Siretha White, was gunned down by a stray bullet on her birthday in 2006, rode the bus with Kirk and Rush. She was wearing a coat with an airbrushed image of her niece.

“It’s enough to break your heart,” Kirk said.

The Englewood tour came in the wake of a series of Chicago Sun-Times stories earlier this year about legal and logistical hurdles law enforcement officials would face in executing Kirk’s proposal for the mass arrest of 18,000 Gangster Disciples — and Rush’s response to the senator’s idea..

Last May, Rush blew up at Kirk, saying in a Sun-Times an interview that Kirk’s approach was “headline-grabbing” and an “upper-middle-class, elitist white-boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.”

That led to a June meeting, where they patched things up and Kirk pledged to visit Englewood, in the heart of Rush’s congressional district.

Kirk has since dropped his mass arrest plan, but is moving forward with other moves to combat gang violence. He’s pressuring B. Todd Jones, the new director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to appoint a Chicago based anti-gang coordinator as he continues to look for more federal funds to combat gangs. Jones was sworn into office by Vice President Joe Biden swore on Thursday.

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