Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cambridge 02138: Harvard professor Gates arrested at Cambridge home

UPDATE - apparently the person who called the police was not a neighbor, but someone who worked in a nearby building. In that case, it makes a bit more sense that she would call the police. (Via Ta-Nehisi Coates).

UPDATE - Cambridge Police are dropping charges, according to a Harvard Crimson story.

This is my home town - Harvard professor Gates arrested at Cambridge home.
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation's pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.


Police arrived at Gates’s Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.

He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had "no idea who he was messing with,'' the report said.

Gates told the officer that he was being targeted because "I'm a black man in America.'' [To read a copy of the police report, click here]

Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.

The police report said Gates was arrested after he yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly inside the residence then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him. "It was at that time that I informed Professor Gates that he was under arrest,'' the officer wrote in the report.

Get this - he was arrested in his own home. I cannot imagine that this would happen to any distinguished white Harvard professor. What is wrong with the Cambridge police? I grew up in Cambridge in the 1960s and 70s, and the Cambridge police certainly engaged in many dubious actions then, but I had hoped that they had improved since then.

The article in the Harvard Crimson on the arrest.

Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic online.

Apparently it was one of his neighbors who called the police on him. She didn't know what he looked like? He's pretty distinctive looking, and his photo appears in the local papers pretty often. Why did she call the police?

1 comment:

  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.