BOSTON – Police responding to a call about "two black males" breaking into a home near Harvard University ended up arresting the man who lives there — Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation's pre-eminent black scholar.
Gates had forced his way through the front door because it was jammed, his lawyer said. Colleagues call the arrest last Thursday afternoon a clear case of racial profiling.
Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch," with one "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry."
By the time police arrived, Gates was already inside. Police say he refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a report of a break-in.
"Why, because I'm a black man in America?" Gates said, according to a police report written by Sgt. James Crowley. The Cambridge police refused to comment on the arrest Monday.
Gates — the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research — initially refused to show the officer his identification, but then gave him a Harvard University ID card, according to police.
"Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him," the officer wrote.
Gates said he turned over his driver's license and Harvard ID — both with his photos — and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He said he then followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was handcuffed in front of other officers, Gates said in a statement released by his attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, on a Web site Gates oversees, TheRoot.com
He was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior." He was released later that day on his own recognizance. An arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 26.
Gates, 58, also refused to speak publicly Monday, referring calls to Ogletree.
"He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification," Ogletree said.
Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying "I think the incident speaks for itself."
Some of Gates' African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.
Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.
"We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white," Counter said. "It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened."
The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates' arraignment.
"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Sharpton said. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."
Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home — which he leases from Harvard — shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived.
Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.
"He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.
Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, said he met with Gates at the police station and described his colleague as feeling humiliated and "emotionally devastated."
"It's just deeply disappointing but also a pointed reminder that there are serious problems that we have to wrestle with," he said.
Bobo said he hoped Cambridge police would drop the charges and called on the department to use the incident to review training and screening procedures it has in place.
The Middlesex district attorney's office said it could not do so until after Gates' arraignment. The woman who reported the apparent break-in did not return a message Monday.
Gates joined the Harvard faculty in 1991 and holds one of 20 prestigious "university professors" positions at the school. He also was host of "African American Lives," a PBS show about the family histories of prominent U.S. blacks, and was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997.
"I was obviously very concerned when I learned on Thursday about the incident," Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. "He and I spoke directly and I have asked him to keep me apprised."
[link to news.yahoo.com]
Charge dropped against black Harvard scholar
BOSTON – Prosecutors dropped a disorderly conduct charge Tuesday against prominent black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was arrested after forcing his way into his own house in what he and other blacks say was an outrageous but all-too-common example of how police treat them.
The city of Cambridge called the arrest "regrettable and unfortunate," and police and Gates agreed that dropping the charge was a just resolution — though not one that quelled the anger of one of America's top academics.
"I'm outraged," Gates said in extensive comments made to TheRoot.com, a Web site he oversees. "I can't believe that an individual policeman on the Cambridge police force would treat any African-American male this way, and I am astonished that this happened to me; and more importantly I'm astonished that it could happen to any citizen of the United States, no matter what their race.
"There are 1 million black men in the prison system, and on Thursday I became one of them," he said. "I would sooner have believed the sky was going to fall from the heavens than I would have believed this could happen to me. It shouldn't have happened to me, and it shouldn't happen to anyone."
Gates, 58, is director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and is a documentary host. He was arrested upon his return home from China, where he working on his latest film. He said he's now inspired to work on a documentary about racial profiling.
The city of Cambridge, a Boston suburb, released a statement saying the situation "should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department."
Gates had just arrived from the airport when he realized his front door was jammed and he couldn't get into the tidy house with yellow clapboard that he rents from Harvard. He asked his driver for help.
Supporters say Gates was immediately considered a suspect because officers were summoned by a female caller who said she saw "two black males with backpacks on the porch," one of whom was "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry," according to a police report.
When the officers arrived, Gates was already inside and on the phone with the real estate company that manages the property. He had come in through the back door and shut off the alarm, he said.
Police said Gates was arrested after he yelled at an officer, accused him of racial bias and refused to calm down after the officer demanded that Gates show him identification to prove he lived in the home.
Gates' lawyer, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, said his client showed his driver's license and Harvard ID — both with his photos — and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He followed the officer onto the front porch as he left his house and was arrested there.
Gates told The Root that the police handcuffed him behind his back but moved the cuffs to the front when he told them he walked with a cane. He noted that at least one of the officers in the group outside his house was black.
He spoke of a "terrifying and humiliating" experience at the Cambridge jail, where he was booked, fingerprinted, photographed and questioned, then locked up in a tiny cell that made him claustrophobic.
He said that he doesn't know the woman who called police, Lucia Whalen, and that "she was probably doing the right thing." Whalen didn't respond to Associated Press requests for comment.
Gates said he harbors more anger toward the officer who arrested "the first black man" he saw and arrested him on a "trumped-up charge."
He said he wants an apology from the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, who hasn't responded to a request for an interview from the AP. He also said he planned to talk to his legal team about the next step.
Gates did not respond to AP requests for an interview Tuesday, and Ogletree did not return a request to comment on the charge being dropped. A message was left for the Cambridge police officers' union.
Other prominent blacks called the confrontation a clear example of racial profiling.
"Under any account ... all of it is totally uncalled for," said Earl Graves Jr., CEO of the company that publishes Black Enterprise magazine.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he was unsatisfied with the resolution.
"The charges have been dropped, but the stain remains. ... Humiliation remains," Jackson said. "These incidents are so much of a national pattern on race."
Gates joined the Harvard faculty in 1991 and holds one of 20 prestigious "university professors" positions at the school. He also was host of "African American Lives," a PBS show about the family histories of prominent U.S. blacks. In 1997, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans.
[link to news.yahoo.com]