Charges Dropped Against Henry Louis Gates

21 Jul

Charges dropped against Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.; arrest was ‘regrettable’

Red-faced officials dropped criminal charges against Harvard’s most prominent black scholar, who was arrested last week in his home by cops looking for a burglar.

The city of Cambridge issued a statement Tuesday calling the disorderly conduct arrest of Professor Henry Louis (Skip) Gates Jr. “regrettable and unfortunate.”

Gates, 58, was handcuffed and hauled away Thursday afternoon after kicking up an angry fuss when a police sergeant entered his house and demanded proof he lived there.

The bizarre incident revived the Boston area’s image as a hotbed of racial tension – something Cambridge officials were eager to reverse.

“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 city said.

“All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

Gates had just returned from filming a PBS documentary in China and had trouble opening his jammed front door on stately Ware St. in Cambridge, two blocks from the Harvard campus.

He asked his driver – also black – for help with the door, prompting Lucia Whalen, 40, who works next door at the offices of Harvard Magazine, to call police to report a possible break-in.

Responding to the call, Sgt. James Crowley reported he told Gates he was investigating a break-in and an angry Gates replied, “Why, because I am a black man in America?”

The police report Crowley filed does not note when he entered the house, but describes him leaving it as Gates accused him loudly of being a racist cop.

“My reason for wanting to leave the residence was that Gates was yelling very loud and the acoustics of the kitchen and foyer were making it difficult for me to transmit pertinent information” to a dispatcher, he wrote.

A second cop, Officer Carlos Figueroa, also entered Gates’ house, according to the police report.
Gates had shown the officers his Harvard ID and his driver’s license, both listing the address as his residence.

“While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me,” Crowley wrote.

Crowley arrested and cuffed Gates on his porch for “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” his report said.


Posted by on July 21, 2009 in The Post-Racial Life


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10 responses to “Charges Dropped Against Henry Louis Gates

  1. Tafaraji

    July 21, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    Ironic in this affair’s semi-aftermath; Prof Gates is fielding questions from Martha’s Vineyard. I’m sure he’ll be just fine.


  2. btx3

    July 21, 2009 at 5:22 PM

    Think he was tired and grouchy after a long trip. That is a brutal flight from China.


  3. brotherbrown

    July 22, 2009 at 12:17 AM

    Part of me wants to laugh, part of me wants to cry, part of me want to cuss.

    Gates had that visceral reaction we’ve all had, and wasn’t willing or able to muster the “proper attitude” to just give the cop (with ego issues) what he needed to leave him alone.

    Because of a security system error, I onced summoned the police to my house. At the time the police came, I happened to be outside in my backyard. The cop kind of startled me, asked me a couple of questions like the house address and phone number, and then asked to see my ID. After I showed who I was, the cop left. Good cop, doing a good job.

    Gates got a little taste of “just us.”


    • btx3

      July 22, 2009 at 11:33 AM

      Gates responded badly. There were 3 cops on the scene. He could have used the incident as a teaching moment. Perhaps if he wasn’t so tired and frustrated, he would have.

      Point is, we’ve all been there, whether it Driving While Black, Doing Business While Black, or Just Being There While Black…


  4. brotherbrown

    July 22, 2009 at 12:28 AM

    For Skip Gate:


  5. white guy

    July 23, 2009 at 1:10 AM

    I figured if someone could have the screen name brotherbrown that I’m sure as hell gonna use what I want.

    I’m soooo tired of hearing how bad blacks (yes blacks, not “african-americans”, I’m not “greek-american”), have it here.

    To actually hear of the President of United States respond to a local issue that probably happens everywhere just goes to show you that this guy is pretty special. He knew what kind of publicity he was gonna get. How many other times has Obama gone out of his way as President to address a specific incident for someone that wasn’t his “friend”. How many other black guys or gals are missing out on such an awesome opportunity like that.

    I’m so over it. I was an ardent supporter of Obama until he took local issue that isn’t the first of it’s kind and began using his office for his friends benefit. I’m sure “other” Presidents have done this, but I voted for Obama because he promised change, not more of the same.

    Keep on a track like this and you find out that it wasn’t just the black vote that got you elected. If you want to start taking sides instead of allowing the courts to decide on matters like an arrest, well one less vote from me next time around. And I may never take another leap of faith again with my vote. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinking this way. Just something to keep in mind next time you decide to act like a Mayor, or something not Presidential and National thinking. If you want to speak up for your friends even possibly influencing legal proceedings (to end before they begin), run for Mayor instead of President. I care more about the country as a whole, ya know like the economy, healthcare, nuclear missiles in North Korea and Iran. Stuff that effects the country as a whole.
    Not an elderly 58 year old, (by the way, some may be shocked to hear that 58 is elderly), is screaming things on his steps disrupting the peace of others. Because, no, not even a black guy is allowed to do that, he could have just slammed the door shut when the cops left the inside of the house. He can yell inside his house.

    Also quite frankly I don’t care if Martin Luther King rose from the grave to yell outside with him. He should go to jail too for violating the law. Simple as that. Not even some 58 year old too cool for school Harvard Professor is above the law.


    • btx3

      July 23, 2009 at 9:45 AM

      Dr Gates is a very ill and frail man. He’s about 5′ 5″ and weighs about 140 lbs, and often needs a cane to walk. He is by no one’s description anyone’s badass. While I have never met the man, I have a niece who studied under him on the way to getting her Phd. Her description of him is as a mild mannered, well spoken guy who, unlike say someone like Cornel West, might well go completely unnoticed at a cocktail party.

      And the differential in Law Enforcement – IS, a national issue.


  6. Tafaraji

    July 23, 2009 at 7:10 AM

    Look, I was just thinking to myself this morning, why are people hating on Prof. Gates, wtf? Leave that damn man alone. Nothing he did was that serious.

    Darn crazy azz white police choking ambulance drivers. Big fat azz grown white policemen beating down petite white female barmaids. Police rushing homes of elderly black women shooting them to death. White men have some serious bully issues that requires some serious mental treatment and it ain’t the fault of Prof Gates having a bad day. Leave Black folks and other minorities alone. I mean wtf do people have to do to get peace up in here. It is just f’n insane. It’s time for this isht to change bro.


  7. brotherbrown

    July 23, 2009 at 11:51 PM

    Acually, white guy, brown is my name, and brotherbrown is what a certain group of my father’s friends called him when I was a boy and to this day, so I adopted it as my own name in the blogosphere.

    You seem to have jumped in making assumptions, and I’m seeing quite a bit of resentment and backlash from white men about now, generally. I understand. Really I do. It’s not the same world as it was just fifty years ago when I was born, nevermind seventy years ago when my father was a boy, but all things in a capitalist system are subject to cycles. America built an economy that consumes much of the world’s resources, and now it is contracting, so the pressure is on.

    I believe people who are polite with police will have a good outcome from an encounter with police, and I know a hand full of cops personally. But I wasn’t aware that a cop can tell you to stop talking, seemingly in viiolation of first amendment rights.


  8. Jason

    July 27, 2009 at 3:42 PM

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



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