ARRESTED: Harvard prof who investigated Oprah's African slave roots

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BOSTON, July 21, 2009

Profiling Charge In Black Scholar's Arrest

Harvard's Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested for Disorderly Conduct after 
Protesting Claim he Broke into His Own Home

(AP)  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,

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 

"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 

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 

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."

Ignorant racist cops.  That one's going to cost them their it 
should.  Unfortunately the citizens of Cambridge are also going to lose a 
lot of tax dollars and enhance Prof. Gates retirement considerably.

So much for racism being dead because a black man made it to the White 
Oh not.  Oftentimes cops get-away with this stuff because "the thin
blue line" (i.e. other cops) rally around them and protect the
perpetrator from charges.

Also even if this man was white as snow, the cop is still in the
wrong.  A cop is not allowed to enter a private home without a warrant
or probable cause (i.e. he observed the man with stolen property).
The cop had neither so he conducted an illegal search-and-seizure.