Henry Louis Gates Jr.: Harvard professor arrested, racism accusations, charges now dropped


(Bill Carter/Demotix Images) Police led Henry Louis Gates Jr. away in handcuffs after his arrest on Thursday at his home in Cambridge.

  • Case Recalls Tightrope Blacks Walk With Police: ….Like countless other blacks around the country, Mr. Medley was revisiting his encounters with the police as a national discussion about race and law enforcement unfolded after the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard’s prominent scholar of African-American history. Professor Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct last Thursday at his home in Cambridge, Mass., while the police investigated a report of a possible break-in there. The charge was later dropped, and the Cambridge Police Department said the incident was “regrettable and unfortunate.”
    In interviews here and in Atlanta, in Web postings and on television talk shows, blacks and others said that what happened to Professor Gates is a common, if unacknowledged, reality for many people of color. They also said that beyond race, the ego of the police officer probably played a role…. NYT, 7-23-09
  • Obama doesn’t regret ‘acted stupidly’ remark about Henry Gates Jr. arrest: What’s everyone so upset about?
    That was President Obama’s response Thursday night during an ABC News interview when asked if he regretted his “acted stupidly” comment during Wednesday night’s press conference.
    “I am suprised by the controversy,” Obama told ABC’s Terry Moran. “I think it was [a] pretty straightforward comment that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home.” – NY Daily News, 7-23-09
  • Cop who arrested black scholar is profiling expert: The white police sergeant accused of racial profiling after he arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his home was hand-picked by a black police commissioner to teach recruits about avoiding racial profiling.
    Friends and fellow officers — black and white — say Sgt. James Crowley is a principled police officer and family man who is being unfairly described as racist.
    “If people are looking for a guy who’s abusive or arrogant, they got the wrong guy,” said Andy Meyer, of Natick, who has vacationed with Crowley, coached youth sports with him and is his teammate on a men’s softball team. “This is not a racist, rogue cop. This is a fine, upstanding man. And if every cop in the world were like him, it would be a better place.”
    Gates accused the 11-year department veteran of being an unyielding, race-baiting authoritarian after Crowley arrested and charged him with disorderly conduct last week…. – AP, 7-23-09
  • Police Chief Responds to Obama’s Remarks: The top police official here defended the officer who arrested Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., and said his department was “deeply pained” by President Barack Obama’s remark that Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in the case.
    Commissioner Robert Haas called Sgt. James Crowley “a stellar member of this department” who properly followed police procedure and had no racial motivation in arresting the 58-year-old African-American scholar at his home last week. Authorities dropped the disorderly conduct charge this week.
    But Mr. Haas said he would convene a panel to examine the incident and ways to avoid such incidents, which he said “we deeply regret.”… – WSJ, 7-23-09
  • Obama Criticizes Arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates : President Obama bluntly accused the police of acting “stupidly” by arresting the Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week after an officer had established that Mr. Gates had not broken into his own home in Cambridge, Mass. Mr. Obama stopped short of accusing the police department of racial profiling, as Mr. Gates has done. But during a prime-time White House news conference that was otherwise largely devoted to health care, Mr. Obama weighed in full bore on the Gates case and suggested that the police should never have arrested him. “There’s a long history in this country of African-Americans being stopped disproportionately by the police,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s a sign of how race remains a factor in this society.” – NYT, 7-22-09
  • Police Drop Charges Against Black Scholar: Authorities agreed to drop a disorderly-conduct charge against renowned Harvard University African-American studies scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who had been arrested at his own home last week after police answered a call about a suspected break-in there.
    The arrest had sparked concern that Mr. Gates was a victim of racial profiling, a controversial practice in which police allegedly use race as a factor in identifying criminal suspects.
    In a joint statement, Mr. Gates’ lawyer, the City of Cambridge, Mass., its police department and the county district attorney’s office called the July 16 incident “regrettable and unfortunate.” The statement added that “this incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department” and that “all parties agree this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.”
    In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Gates said the situation “shows our vulnerability to the caprices of individual police officers who for whatever reason are free to arrest you on outrageous charges like disorderly conduct.” Mr. Gates called a police report alleging he yelled at an officer and was uncooperative “a work of sheer fantasy.”
    Mr. Gates, a Harvard professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, said he hadn’t decided whether to pursue any legal action. He said if the officer who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley, “sincerely apologized, I would be willing to forgive him.”… – WSJ, 7-21-09
  • Gates chastises officer after authorities agree to drop criminal charge: Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. chastised a Cambridge police officer today and demanded an apology after authorities agreed to drop a disorderly conduct charge against the renowned African-American scholar.
    Gates accused the officer who arrested him at his Cambridge home of having a “broad imagination” when he summarized last Thursday’s confrontation in police reports, and he denied making several inflammatory remarks.
    “I believe the police officer should apologize to me for what he knows he did that was wrong,” Gates said in a phone interview from his other home in Martha’s Vineyard. “If he apologizes sincerely, I am willing to forgive him. And if he admits his error, I am willing to educate him about the history of racism in America and the issue of racial profiling … That’s what I do for a living.”
    Gates, 58, was handcuffed and booked last Thursday following a police investigation into a suspected burglary at his Ware Street home near Harvard Square. A passerby spotted Gates and his driver, who had dropped him off from the airport, trying to push the front door open and called the police. The door had been jammed. Police responded and arrested Gates after they said he became belligerent.
    Earlier today, the Middlesex district attorney’s office announced plans to drop criminal charges against Gates. The City of Cambridge and the police department recommended today that prosecutors not pursue charges in a joint statement from authorities and Gates that called the confrontation “regrettable and unfortunate.”
    “This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department,” the statement said. “All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.”
    Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons said in a statement that the controversy illustrated “that Cambridge must continue finding ways to address matters of race and class in a frank, honest, and productive manner.”… – Boston Globe, 7-21-09
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested: Colleagues of Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard’s most prominent scholar of African-American history, are accusing the police here of racism after he was arrested at his home last week by an officer investigating a report of a robbery in progress.
    Professor Gates, who has taught at Harvard for nearly two decades, arrived home on Thursday from a trip to China to find his front door jammed, said Charles J. Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard who is representing him.
    He forced the door open with the help of his cab driver, Professor Ogletree said, and had been inside for a few minutes when Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department appeared at his door and asked him to step outside.
    Professor Gates, 58, refused to do so, Professor Ogletree said. From that point, the account of the professor and the police began to differ…. – NYT, 7-21-09
This booking photo released by the Cambridge, Mass., Police Dept., shows Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. APThis booking photo released by the Cambridge, Mass., Police Dept., shows Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Black scholar’s arrest raises profiling questions: Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation’s pre-eminent black scholar, was arrested at his home near Harvard University after forcing his way through his front door because it was jammed. Gates was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge last Thursday 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. Police refused to comment on the arrest Monday…. – AP, 7-21-09
  • Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrested outside his home, calls Cambridge police ‘racist’: A distinguished black Harvard University professor was handcuffed and dragged off his porch to jail after Massachusetts cops mistook him for a burglar. Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s most renowned scholars of African-American history, was busted when he repeatedly accused a cop of racism for confronting him, police said. “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” Gates, 58, demanded, the police report said…. – NY Daily News, 7-21-09
  • Harvard professor arrested, racism accusations: An acclaimed black US scholar accused a police officer in Cambridge, Massachusetts of racism for investigating reports of a break-in as he entered his own house, after which he was arrested, police records have shown.
    Henry Louis Gates, 58, considered a preeminent professor of African American studies at the prestigious Harvard University, was charged with disorderly conduct. Police cited his “loud and tumultuous behavior.”
    Gates was seen by a passing woman to be attempting entry to the front door of his house — which was damaged — along with another black man, according to the police report from July 16.
    The woman alerted the police and by the time a uniformed officer arrived Gates was inside his home and reporting the faulty door to the Harvard Real Estate office, said a statement later released by Gates’ lawyer, Charles Ogletree.
    The other man at the scene was Gates’ hired driver.
    “Professor Gates informed the officer that he lived there and was a faculty member at Harvard University,” Ogletree said.
    According to the police report, Gates repeatedly told officers at the scene that “this is what happens to black men in America.”…. – AFP, 7-20-09


  1. We have three observations about the Harvard professor incident:

    1. We find it interesting that the fact that this was the professor’s home was evidently not established early on way before the dispute escalated;

    2. We find it fascinating that the versions of two members of society, who most would ordinarily view as responsible and honest citizens (this obviously does not include politicians), would vary so dramatically from a factual point of view.

    3. Finally, considering that the reading and viewing public were not present at the scene (and thus have no first hand knowledge), and that there is no video tape to our knowledge of the sequence of events and what was said, how so many have formed conclusions, and made assumptions, about who did what and who was wrong.

    There are some things which Professor Gates might have considered upon the arrival of the police, no matter how incensed he may have been.

  2. Saphfire Wedgeworth

     /  July 24, 2009

    Logistrician, There are many points to consider: was the cab still there, why didn’t the caller report that a cab was there instead of two black men attempting to break in, why didn’t campus police recognize a professor that had been teaching at the university for nearly two decades, normally do break-ins happen in the daylight without any concealment, and smart burglars would not enter from the front door where anyone passing by would see them, did the professor have luggage sitting outside, did the dispatcher indicate who lived in that home. I have never been to Harvard but I have seen pictures of Harvard’s president and pictures of Dr. Gates and I would recognize both of them. Why did the officer ask the suspect(s) to step outside unless he recognized Dr. Gates. Why didn’t officer explain why he was there and leave? Finally, here’s something for you to consider, racial profiling exists, is taught, believed and acted on. That officer only heard “black men” and saw a black man. That officer was wrong, wrong, wrong.

  3. I think someone should E-mail Ahmadenijab protestors and let them know we have problems of our own. We are not able to help them with behind closed door conspiracies to demean, denigrate, suppress, oppress. Our own boat is rocking, our hills are slippery. This is the Reality of Living in America.

  4. I am so sick and tired of these black racists. Here you have some rich Haavaaad snob quickly playing the race card on some poor hard working stiff just because he can. The prof is now talking about suing the cop. Do you think he could possibly think the trial would be fair after Obama labeled the police actions as “stupid?” Being a Harvard law grad Obama should know better than to taint any potential jury pool in this way. Do you think that Crowley will keep trying to teach fellow officers not to profile by race? My guess is that this incident has planted a seed of resentment toward the blacks Crowley was previously trying to protect. What a colossal slap in the face for this poor officer.

  5. I am caucasian. I grew up in a decent neighborhood, prominently (white). now if a young black gent or lady walked through a neighborhood like mine, they would get nods, hello’s, nothing bad would happen. On the flipside if a white person walked through a prominently black neighborhood, at least about 3 or 4 cities around my area, they wouldn’t make it to the end of the block. They would most likely get their ass kicked and anything worth something would be stolen, or possibly killed. These are african-americans with a resentment for an era THAT THEY DIDNT EVEN LIVE IN. The people who actually discriminated against the african americans like the people who implemented segregation, slavery, discrimination, are dead and gone. Except for a couple racist groups like the remotely small kkk or skinheads are few and far between. White people hardly ever really act on racism anymore, because they know the NAACP would be all over it, by the way if af-americans have NAACP where is the WAACP? for discrimination against whites. Black Miss USA, Latino Miss USA…do white people have THEIR OWN SPECIFIC RACE PAGEANT? That professor that got arrested should have been arrested, all he was doing is being beligerent and throwin the race card(to a cop(crowley)who teaches racial profiling classes and performed cpr on an african american. Bullshit, why does NAACP get involved in the most ridiculous things that have nothing to do with race? People are so stupid. African Americans since about the 80’s have even more advantages than whites. My father served in the military for 9 years as a staff sergeant in the marine corps, when he was honorably discharged he could not find a job around our area because of affirmitive action and my father is a damn good worker. BET black awards, black pageants, uncomparable athletes, I could go on and on maybe there are a few cops who have a hard on for african americans, but thats mainly because they see the crime in THEIR neighborhoods and a lot of the time (and it’s not a stereotype or profiling)most of the crime in their community is committed by african americans. Ive seen many af-american ppl on the corner selling dope, when they have the opportunity through programs like fasfa to get financial aid for college, or affirmitive action gives them an even better chance than a white male to get a job, if they apply. It’s ridiculous just like the OJ case and they threw the race card,he was on trial for the murder of his ex wife and ron goldman, nobody ever said a word about him being a criminal because he was african-american. God, places like NAACP think this country or white ppl owe them everything, and reparations? are you kidding me?White people are and have bent overbackwards to please african americans and most dare not to be racist because of the repurcussions, or the fact that they aren’t racist at all(but are accused of being). Give, give, give, and kiss ass and they still always want more and they act like white people are evil, yeah the people who kept slaves and all of it were wrong, but they are dead, and not to be an ass, but if af-americans werent brough to the US for slavery(actually a place to work, food provided, churches allowed to be built for them, while food was very scarce in africa, as well as community’s stable enough to build places of worship, and tents to sleep in, which I believe there lodgings as a “slave” was light years better than tents. The people who so avidly BITCH about what african americans dont have these days, wouldnt be here today. I definetly am not racist it just burns my ass that places and ppl like the NAACP make a whole lot of something out of absolutely nothing.

  6. Jason

     /  July 27, 2009

    I have HQ audio of the Henry Gates 911 call, Moderator, If you are interested

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