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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

 

Man arrested in his own home after break -in call

Scholar's arrest raises profiling questions

MELISSA TRUJILLO
Associated Press Writer 
July 21, 2009
8:05AM

Police accused of racism as Harvard scholar arrested

AFP/Getty Images/File – 

Henry Louis Gates, an acclaimed

black US scholar has accused a

Massachusetts police officer of racism 

 

 

BOSTON – Supporters of a prominent Harvard University black scholar who was arrested at his own home by police responding to a report of a break-in say he is the victim of racial profiling.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. had forced his way through the front door of his home because it was jammed, his lawyer said Monday.

Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home near campus 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 said he will 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 SLIDESHOW:

http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Harvard-Scholar-Henry-Louis-Gates Jr/ss/events/us/072109henrylouigates


Comments:
I think this guy had an attitude and should have cooperated with the police. He may be a scholar but he didn't have any street smarts.

It's like getting stopped by a policemen and talking crap even if the cop is wrong. The last thing you want to do is piss off a cop. A policemen will find something to charge you with. When will people learn to just do what an officer say.

It's like what Richard Pryor said in what of his skits in getting pulled over, "I am reaching into my pockets"

I watched a girl get pulled over about a month ago at a gas station and she had one of the biggest mouths you can imagine and got out of the car too. I thought "shut the f*ck up and maybe he won't write you a ticket. Police officers just want you to do what they said and shut up with the attitude. They don't care if you are a scholar.
Janet - agree 100% with you.

The cop was wrong. The neighbor that called the incident in was wrong. I'm sure that the police was just in a super cop mood and wanted to start some crap with the Professor. I worked with these types for years, Professors, and they have a hard headed way about them, but no one would thing of them as someone who would break into a house. And yes, most of the professors I knew were preoccupied with their thoughts, buried in some thesis in their heads and didn't have time for nonsense.

I do think the Professor should have identified himself, but I don't think the cop gave the right signals. As for the person who called 911, it was probably some creepy neighbor that if it was a real break in at the Professors house all they would have done was pull up a chair to the window. Let's face facts, the Professor was in the "wrong neighborhood" for the neighbors and the supercop.

I worked in many places where it was shameful how other nationalities were treated, not just blacks. I listened to comments that I overheard, or saw that some would get the dirty work and others didn't. We in Philadelphia have a big problem with the race card that no one addresses. Sure we have black mayors, elected by mostly blacks that are back by the white power group only to use the mayor as pawns to keep the status quo. Not one of these black mayors addressed the problem blacks fact in Philadelphia.

I remember when Mayor Nutter gave his acceptance speech, he said he would stop the practice of denying blacks opportunity in the skilled construction field, and as soon as those words left his mouth Gov Rendell jumped up and ran over to Nutter and whispered something in his ear. Replay the tape and see if I'm not telling the truth. That was the last mention of it. They set up a sham program when they were working on the elevated train, as we call the El, to help minorities in the construction fields, blacks and women. I went down being a woman and it was all sham, they offered me a flag job for 8 bucks an hour. I have a resume that has extensive construction experience for over 20 years, plus working as a union bricklayer, and all I could get out of that program that was supposed to help minorities and women to get into the construction field was a flag job? When all the noise from not hiring minorities for the five year project quieted down, the program closed in 8 months without notice. End of story.

We still have cross burnings in Philadelphia, last year we had one. Its horrible to think that we as a free nation can't live and work were we want. Okay, some special cases do apply, we do have tokens, but as a whole, there is a invisible line that we all know its there. We also just had a website that the Philadelphia Police let certain cops update and administer during working hours that had racial slurs, only after it hit the national news did the Police department denied access via the Police department computers. Everybody knew of the site in the Police department, but it took a few cops of a different color to put a stop to it.

When they want to move out minorities out of a section of the city to ''reclaim'' it what do they do in Philadelphia? Raise the tax rate so high that they have to move. Look at the section down around 3rd and Girard, I remember it being Latin and Blacks, now its new condo with a price tag they can not afford. Same with the Spring Garden section of the city, that happened years ago, use to be mostly public housing, no one wanted to live there. Now its million dollar town houses.

I have many stories, while in college I took Sociology and it was an eye opener, it expanded my mind, and made me think of things I never would have dreams of. It gave the history of the human development. I think it should be taught in high schools, no student should leave high school without it.

Life goes on.
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