Under Arrest: Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eric Adams, NY State Senator (20th district) and former head of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, joins us for a discussion about the arrest of renowned Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. When asked about the incident during Wednesday's press conference, President Obama responded, "It's a sign of how race remains a factor in this society." What did you make of the President's statements last night on the Gates case? Comment below!


Eric Adams

Comments [126]

carol akin from NYC

If a policeman arrived at my house investigating a possible break-in I would be polite and reasonable about providing identification. I would be greatful that someone was looking after my house. Asking someone to provide identification is not racial profiling. The professor was insulting and rude to the police officer who was just doing his job....trying to protect the professor's house.
The professor's rant reminded me of Reverend Wright. I think the President should apologize to the police officer. Being called a racist by the professor and the President agreeing to that charge is not appropriate. WHY is the President commenting on a local problem anyway. I think he should tend to his business....getting this country back on track economically.

Jul. 25 2009 09:36 AM

9's comment -- "even progressives who listen to the BL show don't get it"

Disagree -- for me this show is about seeking truth and remembering to be skeptical even when it isn't popular or even totally safe.

An exquisite aspect of this show, for myself at least and I'm sure many others), is also about bringing younger listeners together with more world-wise (world-weary?) listeners who have learned that there is usually more to the story than the first headlines would suggest. Are the events of the day are NEVER black and white? Nah...

Reading through the comments above, the diversity of points and tactics of making them, well, BL Show has much to be proud of in creating this space and nourishing such voices. *Sniffle* I may be having a bit of USA pride as well.

Jul. 24 2009 10:06 AM
Cynthia McKinney Rodney King

you are smart! finally, some common sense here.

Jul. 23 2009 10:46 PM
John Hahn from Glen Rock NJ

Brian this was an interesting and good segment. As a white man I have been arrested in my own back yard as a neighbor cut down a 109 year old tree. I was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. But I was also charged with resisting arrest. Not that the police involved ever told me I was under arrest.
It was all BS. my father was the mayor. The cop was short and I am 6'4".
THe problem we have is our police tend to be their own judge & jury. In some places they are mini terrorist groups. They write tickets knowing they can lie about anything with no consequences.
Your guest Eric Adams was spot on with his assessment of the police in this (and many other) events.
Police are human. But they need to be better trained and supervised.

I think the President talking about this is a sign that we really need to fix some of these problems in our so-called free-society.
THanks for a good segment.

Jul. 23 2009 10:05 PM

Listening to President Obama speak last night, I wondered if he'd ever been stopped by the police for DWB?

Jul. 23 2009 09:30 PM

Dang! Sandra from Astoria [#82], you beat me to it. Malcolm X was quoted to have said it too.

Jul. 23 2009 09:26 PM
JT from Long Island

[117] Matt from UWS,

Sure, "there is a considered, humane voice that emerges from the police report", but that was probably written an hour after the incident. In the heat of the moment he may not have been that way.

I'd like to hear some of the neighbors weigh in on this. He supposedly came out of his house yelling at the officer. At least some reports said that some neighbors had gathered outside (a photo of the arrest supports this since the police wouldn't snap photos of an arrest) so someone must have heard this but no one has stepped forward to speak up and confirm one of the stories.

Jul. 23 2009 04:09 PM
William Conte from South Amboy, NJ

When I initially heard this story on Wednesday I assumed this story had a racial aspect to it.
Hearing more details I am not so sure that was the only motivation.

I live in a residential area in New Jersey that includes private homes and rental apartments. I work daytime and I am not home all that much. I know a few of my neighbors by sight, but I do not know what many others look like. It could be the case with Prof. Gates' neighbor too-maybe he did not know who actually lived there and they were trying to be a good citizen.

Senator Adams remarked over and over that it is not illegal to be angry and verbally attack police. Well, in Houston Texas it is.
I have a 40 something year old white male friend who now lives in Houston. About two months ago he was detained by a police officer. After the initial incident as he walked away he made a comment against the officer which included the "f" bomb. He was immediately arrested for this and jailed for a few hours while he was being processed, and then fined for for his abusive comment. The people who processed him at the police station told him that a statute on the books regarding disorderly or abusive conduct towards police officers was being enforced. So in some places mouthing off and being arrogant to a police officer IS indeed a crime.

Sen. Adams insistance this is not a crime and is pretty much anyone's right may misinform listeners in some localities and encourage them to act in a way that may get them arrested in some areas.

Jul. 23 2009 03:53 PM

#117 - perhaps you may be right about calling Harvard police to meditate. There are so many aspects to this situation. There was one line in the arrest report where Sgt. Crowley writes that he didn't understand Dr. Gates's reaction. He seemed to be qenuinely bewildered at how his actions were offensive to Dr. Gates. Posters should read the transcript to a CNN interview with Dr. Gates.

Let me clarify that I don't think that Ms. Whalen was wrong in calling the police. Though it seems strange to me that she would assume that Dr. Gates was a burglar when he has luggage with him and a cab is parked in front of the house, there have a slew of break-ins in that neighborhood, so perhaps she was being hyper-viligant.

I think that there were overreactions, missteps and misunderstandings all around. I am sure that Sgt Crowley believes that he would do the same thing if it were to happen again, but I hope not because arresting a person who lives in the house that you suspect him of breaking into because he is yelling at you seems to me a misuse of his power. Sgt Crowley could have so easily defused the situation but chose not to for reasons only he knows. He is the one who made the bigger mistake.

Jul. 23 2009 02:53 PM
Matt from UWS

JT from L.I. [101]: I agree with you that one must be skeptical about the police report, but that also goes for statements from the litigants (who potentially will file a lawsuit).

I simply wanted to make sure that the report's presentation was included in the discussion.

That said, I believe that there is a considered, humane voice that emerges from the police report, which suggests that the officer wasn't an inconsiderate, non-thinking thug. It is plausible that Prof Gates (weary from travel and frustrated with the jammed front door) jumped to the wrong conclusion and needlessly escalated the situation.

But arresting the prof in the absence of any real threat or crime seems a terrible decision. Perhaps the officer was trying to get others to mediate by calling for the Harvard police?

Jul. 23 2009 02:40 PM

I generally agree with poster #111's analysis.

Why the flippant, sarcastic comments? Where's the compassion for a man who had just traveled thousands of miles, is literally sick with an infection, trying to open his jammed front door, has a backpack and luggage with him and a cab parked in front of the house? What was going through Lucia Whalen's mind that made her think that these two black guys were burglars, instead of a guy returning from a trip? Ms. Whalen works for Harvard Mag as a fundraiser and doesn't recognize one of the most high profile persons at Harvard. What is that all about?

After Dr. Gates produced a Harvard ID, why did the cop feel the need to call Harvard campus police? Did Sgt. Crowley believe that the ID was fake? Dr. Gates had every right to be angry at Sgt. Crowley's attitude.

Why this "divide and conquer" mentality? Instead of coming down hard on Dr. Gates, why not direct some of the anger at the police who misuse their power of authority? I am dismayed at the level of sarcasm, dismissiveness and anger expressed against Dr. Gates on this site. Brian Lehrer perceives his listeners as intelligent, erudite, well-informed, critically minded people. Yet I am reading lot of reactionary, unintelligent comments.

Jul. 23 2009 02:20 PM
Matt from UWS

Steve --
Apparently there is a dispute over facts. In my earlier post I quoted from the police report which states that Prof Gates only produced his Harvard ID (no address). Also, regarding Prof Gates asking the officer for his ID: "[Gates] then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was 'Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police.'"
Later: "Gates asked again for my name which I began to provide. Gates began to yell over my spoken words by accusing me of being a racist police officer and leveling threats that he wasn't someone to mess with... When Gates asked a third time for my name, I explained that I had provided it at his request two separate times. Gates continued to yell at me. I told Gates that I was leaving his residence and that if he had any other questions regarding the matter, I would speak to him outside the residence."
Sounds like Prof Gates either is hard of hearing or couldn't hear over his own screaming.

Jul. 23 2009 01:57 PM
linda from NJ

question : when officers are screened for police academy is there a component today that looks at a persons biases - of any type - and are they considered - as part of psych evaluation?

i hear that caller: yes we are all taught that it is best to keep your mouth shut and to stay alive - and it is a hard lesson learned for many young balck men. on the other hand a person gets tired. and in the end it is up to the professional, the expectation is that the trained person knows to maintain cool head and not misuse authority


that is the killer here.

of course any officer working that area of town (or anywhere)
is experienced with the person who does not appreciate your intercession on their behalf

would have said they were doing their job given ID info , said have a nice day ----all while a person is fuming

i think there must be more to the dynamics of what happened between the 2 - then again one of them having a bad day or moment or could have done it too .

in the end up to professional officer to show correct behavior -
and understanding black person sick and ired of being sick and tired

(my niece just day before related example of a nurse reacting to patient mis-behavior , instead of being profesional - even though obvious patient had behavior issues)



Unbelievable... I heard about this on NPR this morning and I know that if a white person gave them ID they would have backed off a lot faster. I think the person who called the police needs to know who their neighbors are in addition to the police taking a class in how to recognize an erroneous report (the professor proved who he was, the caller reporting him was profiling), and how to back off and apologize when they are given proof that the caller was wrong.

Jul. 23 2009 01:51 PM
Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner from Lower Eastside

It is really an unfortunate incident.

YOu did not mention that the Prof. was just returning from a trip to China. He must have been very tired. His luggage was still outside and the cab driver was assisting him

with the door that was stuck.


Jul. 23 2009 01:10 PM
Office Worker from Fort Greene, Brooklyn

When a citizen overreacts, a cop may have injured feelings.

When a police officer overreacts, a citizen may have his or her life ruined.

Yelling at a person and imprisoning a person are not equal or scaled "overreactions." One, at worst, can be called bad behavior. The other is literally criminal.

Jul. 23 2009 01:10 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

There seems to be a certain level of indignation on the part of many white people in regards to this story where they are giving extreme deference to the officer and a critical eye to anyone making a charge of racism. I don’t think they are racist themselves, I think it’s that stories likes these upset ideas of America being post-racial and that great progress has been made and this issue is resolved. I think these reactions are an attempt to hold on to the idea of racial harmony and equality that many minorities have never fully bought into because they are still in the position of encountering active bias on a regular basis.

Jul. 23 2009 01:09 PM

Let me clarify - I don't know if Dr. Gates overreacted since I wasn't there but people are quoted in Boston Globe as saying that Dr. Gates is a pleasant, well-mannered man who is always saying "good morning" to merchants who see him regularly walking around Harvard Square. Read the Washington Post article with Dr. Gates. He isn't a militant person who throws around charges of racism.

As another poster wrote, I wouldn't trust the cop's arrest report because he is going to write it to justify the arrest.

Jul. 23 2009 12:51 PM
Lance from Miami

You write that, "I think a black officer would have arrested a white or black man if he or she felt sufficiently provoked, and a white officer a white man in the same circumstance (still wrong if a crime wasn't committed, though)."

At the crux of the matter is whether the threshold for being "sufficiently provoked" is the same when the suspect is white vs. not white (and especially if the suspect is African-American).

It has been well documented that people respond differently to other people based on their appearance (people are more likely to yield way on the sidewalk when the person approaching from the opposite direction is wearing a business suit, for instance). Race is one of the most important of those appearance factors in our society.

This case reeks of an officer being ticked off by an uppity n***er and deciding to "put him in his place." Only, as the professor reportedly said at the scene, the officer didn't know who he was dealing with.

Jul. 23 2009 12:51 PM
Elisa from White Plains

While I agree that this happens predominantly to dark-skinned people, let's not forget that gays also face this risk of arrest in their own homes--anybody remember Bower v Hardwick when the Supreme Court said that arresting people in their home who are privately having sex is just fine?

Jul. 23 2009 12:46 PM
Ron Bashford from NYC

I feel that a factor in this case may be as much (if not more) due to class, that is, tension due to town & gown relations. A Harvard professor overreacts and talks down to a police officer, and the police officer over-reacts. We all know that police routinely put people in their place for reasons like this, black or not.

Jul. 23 2009 12:42 PM
Joe the Actor

#102 what? I was a college kid too and yes sometimes - you know...what's ths got to do with anythign?

You want to know what I think happened in this Gates incident? I think Gates was rightfully upset and then some because of his experience as a Black man in the US and when he demanded information and didn't get it things escalated. I DON"T CARE. He shouldn't have left HIS home in handcuffs. Louis Gates Jr.!!!!

The issue is that Black Americans and Latinos still feel this discrimination! Us White folks listening and being shocked for a change might be in order! and I am not a blanket liberal. I was very skeptical in the Sean Bell case. I wanted ALL teh facts and I admit that because of where he lived and grew up, I assumed he must of been up to no good. I admit that. BUT THIS IS LOUIS GATES! if it can happen to him, then it can happen to the most ordinary of men going about their day. I see that in this example that my outrage is as vital as the outrage from the Black community. Thus together, we are outraged as a group.

Jul. 23 2009 12:39 PM

Context is everything, isn't it? One of the ways racism and other forms of oppression work is that people are treated differently in comparable situations depending on gender, race/ethnicity, dress, religion, etc. There is lots of studies and empirical evidence to prove this.

I found it very interesting that some posters are unwilling to acknowledge that in all probablility, a white male Harvard Professor who produced two photo IDs, one a driver's licence and the other a Harvard ID, would have been treated differently. Let's say for the sake of argument, that the cop gave attitude to the white male Harvard professor, the white male Harvard professor probably would have reacted the same way as Dr. Gates. I think that we would all agree that Dr. Gates overreacted and the cop overreacted. The difference is that the cop misused his power and this is the dangerous part. I find the willingness of some posters to diminish the role that race/racism played in this specific situation is alarming.

Jul. 23 2009 12:38 PM
JT from Long Island

[95] Teresa from New York,

Can you name a high profile white person that was arrested in this manner? Or arrested under similar charges which are then dropped?

Your last paragraph is puzzling. You mention "the disproportionate number of black and Hispanic men arrested for absolutely no reason" and then say that anyone that believes this is evidence of police racism is himself a racist. Huh??? Why are those groups disproportionally arrested or no reason?

Jul. 23 2009 12:36 PM
Dr. Harris Saltzburg from on the road...

I must concur with Lauren Wegel of NYC. I empathize with her and Professor Gates. In 2002, when I was a faculty member at UMDNJ, I was arrested for taking a digital photograph on the clinical floor of the Dental School (far too, too long a story to recount in this space). Things did not turn nasty until I inquired (of the police officer) his badge number, name and whether I should contact my attorney. Sadly, as Professor Gates, Lauren Wegel and I discovered, the police apparently have very little patience when a civilian challenges their authority, even in the most ridiculously sublime of circumstances. Several months later an incredulous judge ("The doctor was arrested for what reason???") settled the dispute - we apologized to one another and went our separate ways, albeit I with a $3000 attorney's fee.

Jul. 23 2009 12:36 PM
Joe the Actor

@101 Mike: I'd say racism is learned, blind hatred for no reason other than someone is racial different from you, and prejudice is expecting a certain type of behaviour from someone based on race, gener, sexual orientation, sex, ethnicity, nationality. I wouldn't say the evil creeps who bombed that church in 1960 (?) killy 4 little girls were just 'prejudiced' I'd say they wre 'racist'. When I go into the Verizon store in my neighborhood and get waited on by predominently Black staff and I get some hard stare off the clerk, I'd say she's being prejudiced as am I because I have come to expect that stare.

Jul. 23 2009 12:29 PM
JT from Long Island

[93] Matt from UWS,

Why do you assume that the police report is 100% factual? I mentioned the police officer that knocked a biker over. That biker was arrested and charged with assault and resisting arrest. You can quote the police report all you want, but the video clearly shows that the officer was the aggressor and the charges were based on lies. Here's the clip if you haven't seen it:

It's a huge mistake to always assume the police are right. They are human and make mistakes also. It would be nice for them to own up to it sometimes.

Jul. 23 2009 12:27 PM
Mike from Inwood

[101] Joe the Actor: I'm a White man who lived in an overwhelmingly-White, rural college town near Canada for 10 years. The all-White police force there, none of whom attended college, HATED the college kids who seemed to do nothing except drink beer and then make twice the money they's ever see. And they were brutal. And we were well spoken. And afraid. In those 10 years, 14 kids managed to die. Not directly at police hands, but the police and DA failed to prosecute when they should have.

Jul. 23 2009 12:26 PM
Joe the Actor

Of course we do Mike. that's not what I am saying. I have learned since moving to New York 10 years ago, to approach Black people and Latinos with caution. It may not be right, but me taking some extra care to be kind and understanding and listening while waiting on certain people, or working side by side, goes a long way in developing a sense of trust. I wish I didn't get stepped on by Black women on the train, but I do! I have been jabbed accidently 'on purpose', been tutted at for some social crime I am oblivious to, been told I'm rude, and been jeered at in teh street. Not everyday, but enough to make me form a prejudice. I used to react with such anger! It never got me anywhere.

Jul. 23 2009 12:25 PM
hjs from 11211

i think anyone breaking into the white house would get shot. that was his point.

Jul. 23 2009 12:25 PM
Steve from Manhattan

The B.L. show's staff did not prepare Brian Lehrer with adequate facts for this segment, i.e., the fact that Professor Gates asked the officer his name and badge number several times without getting an answer -- a reason that Gates got angry. (This info was posted by ‘Karen from NYC’ at 11:08, but was never relayed to Brian.) Also omitted from the segment is that Gates did not have his I.D. on him, & had to go to the kitchen to get it, making the officer more doubtful about Gates's real identity. These facts were in several news reports, and are posted in the report by Gates's lawyer:
Here's the relevant part of it:
"The officer then asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and turned to walk into his kitchen, where he had left his wallet. The officer followed him. Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver’s license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates’ photograph, and the license includes his address.
Professor Gates then asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number. He made this request several times. The officer did not produce any identification nor did he respond to Professor Gates’ request for this information. After an additional request by Professor Gates for the officer’s name and badge number, the officer then turned and left the kitchen of Professor Gates’ home without ever acknowledging who he was or if there were charges against Professor Gates."
BTW, the callers who were selected to speak on this segment were below this show's usual standard, giving erroneous information that Brian did not challenge, and were permitted to repeat it at length. Brian should definitely issue a postscript to correct the facts in this case.

Jul. 23 2009 12:24 PM
Mike from Inwood

[100] Joe the Actor: What is the difference between racism and prejudice?

Jul. 23 2009 12:22 PM
Mike from Inwood

[100] Joe (the White woman) Actor: We all have real experiences to draw from. Even you.

Jul. 23 2009 12:21 PM
Joe the Actor

#98 Teresa: I don't have the history that goes along with feeling threatened and not protected equally by the police. I'd run to a policeman when in danger, I haven't learned to run away or mistrust. Because I am white and well spoken. I get that!

Jul. 23 2009 12:20 PM
Teresa from New York

Sadly, I think Prof. Gates made race an issue when it wasn't. It's a police officer's job to respond to a suspected burglary. The officer had to ensure that Prof. Gates lived in the house and thus requesting ID is appropriate, as was asking an unidentified man to step outside of a house following a reported break-in prior to asking the man for ID. Once shown the ID, the officer should have left. Prof. Gates was pissed off, feeling that he had been profiled and ran his mouth. That's not a crime but it probably pissed off the police officer. That Prof. Gates was arrested is wrong as he committed no crime. Thus, the officer responded to Prof. Gates's anger incorrectly- but it doesn't mean that the officer arrested Prof. Gates because the latter is black. I think a black officer would have arrested a white or black man if he or she felt sufficiently provoked, and a white officer a white man in the same circumstance (still wrong if a crime wasn't committed, though).

Prof. Gates has racist views regarding white police officers- no doubt fueled by the disproportionate number of black and Hispanic men arrested for absolutely no reason. For Prof. Gates to assume that he was being harassed by a white officer because he's a "black man in America" is racist and prejudicial.

Jul. 23 2009 12:15 PM
Joe the Actor

#9 Ayo - I understand your comment and agree with most of it and think the fact that Louis Gates was arrested really triggered a new understanding about what Black Americans and Latinos feel when dealing with law enforcement. But saying white people are abusive to the police too is a little silly. Only because I do not as a White person, have the emotional history a Black person would have. I am sympathetic and I want a better world and country. Everytime race gets brought up on Brian's show the comments come flying fast and furious! I am listening and paying attention. How does an individual's psyche recover from a brutally abusive relationship? Now what about a whole group of people? This is an outrageous incident. I AM LISTENING. I can only say it so many times. I have been accused of being racist myself and it hurt deeply.

Jul. 23 2009 12:13 PM
JT from Long Island

From the accounts I read, Gates was trying to get the officer's name and badge number, which he has every right to. The officer refused and Gates persisted, perhaps too loudly, and got arrested. If this were a real charge then anyone yelling a greeting to their neighbor could be charged with disorderly conduct.

A lot of the commentary on this story seems to include a lot of opinion that does not follow the reported facts of the case. Like the last caller of the segment, I forget his name, that insisted that Gates did not show ID, that this fact was widely reported, and that the police stopped because they saw him breaking the door down.

Jul. 23 2009 12:13 PM
Hector from Sunset Park


Yes I have lived in the South and being a Native New Yorker I have a good insight on this issue!

Jul. 23 2009 12:11 PM
Mike from Inwood

Joe the Actor [85]: I'm not sure what you mean by splitting hairs. If you're referring to the post I believe you are, my point was that after both Gate's and the officer's nerves were frayed, neither was in the mood to back off. Gates knew he was within his rights treat the officer any way he felt like treating him (and let me assume he had some verbal skills) and the officer knew that he could make a cheesey arrest on charges that would only be dismissed.

Jul. 23 2009 12:11 PM
Matt from UWS

Why didn't anyone reference the actual arrest report?!
(Available at:

Acc. to the report, Prof. Gates only produced his Harvard ID (although Gates and his lawyer claim that he also produced his driver's license).

The arresting officer states that "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. I asked Gates to provide me with photo identification so that I could verify that he resided at Ware Street... Gates initially refused, demanding that I show him identification but then did supply me with a Harvard University identification card. Upon learning that Gates was affiliated with Harvard, I radioed and requested the presence of Harvard University Police."

Gates was yelling at him and "leveling threats that he wasn't someone to mess with." So it sounds like Prof. Gates didn't produce an ID with his address. But as Sen. Adams pointed out, screaming threatening profanities doesn’t violate any law.

The key is what happened next: the officer was returning to the sidewalk when Gates followed him out on to the porch. "Gates ignored my warning and continued to yell, which drew the attention of both the police officers and citizens, who appeared surprised and alarmed by Gates' outburst... Gates again ignored my warning and continued to yell at me. It was at this time that I informed Gates that he was under arrest. I then stepped up the stairs, onto the porch and attempted to place handcuffs on Gates..."

The issue, then, is whether Gates crossed a line by screaming from his front porch. My understanding is that while the law generally views one's home as sacrosanct, the outside porch is considered public space.

It sounds like Prof. Gates technically crossed the line but the officer still should have withdrawn in order to diffuse the situation rather than insisting on his authority to enforce this minor law.

Jul. 23 2009 12:10 PM
Hector from Sunset Park


I did not say all are indisgushable I said many are!

Jul. 23 2009 12:09 PM

I believe the police officer abused his power. An online picture shows Dr. Gates handcuffed on his own property. This officer acted improperly which is the reason Cambridge PD dropped the charge because it knew a judge would have thrown the charge out the window, not because of Dr. Gates's celebrity because of the proper application of the law in this case. How race factors into this situation is if a white male Harvard professor was involved, the police officer would have apologized and left immediately. I am not saying that white people have not been mistreated and harassed by the police. I am talking about this specific situation. A white male Harvard professor would have been treated with more respect by the white police officer. This is how race factored into this specific situation.

Talking back to the police is not an arrestable offence but definitely a dangerous one. There lies the problem. Dr. Gates was not wrong to express his anger against the police officer. None of us are wrong when we feel that we are being mistreated or disrespected by someone. Everyone should be outraged at a clear misuse of power by the police officer, but instead people are trashing Dr. Gates by calling him arrogant, etc. We people of all colors, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, and class all should be angry and very concerned about the law enforcement officers who do not apply the law fairly, who misuse their power of authority to intimidate and/or assault people, and who use their positions of power to cover up their misuse of power. I would like to ask those who have been abused and intimidated by the police and appear unsympathetic of Dr. Gates why. You know firsthand the injustice of it all. It's clear that it's not only African American/Black and Latino men, but also women/of color, LBGT, poor people, so why don't we all come together and work together to make sure that the police "protect and serve all."

Jul. 23 2009 12:08 PM
Joe the Actor

#75 Have you ever lived in the south? or anywhere else in America? WE'RE NOT ALL LIKE THAT! We're not.

Jul. 23 2009 12:08 PM
Mike from Inwood

Back to civility... Michael [84]: I think you have hit the nail on the head; everyone needs to examine thier own attitudes and try to see the nuances of a situation instead of taking the easy route and succumbing to simple black and white judgments about other people's motives.

Jul. 23 2009 12:07 PM
Hector from Sunset Park

Yes Pat I mean Mike, calling the kettle black are we? excuse the pun...

Jul. 23 2009 12:07 PM
Sandra from Astoria, Queens

Reminds of that old adage: "What do you call an African American with a PhD? A ni**er."

Because no matter how educated, cultured, respected, monied, etc. a black person is, they will always be assumed to be less-than because of the color of their skin.

A black man couldn't possibly be smart or rich enough to have a nice house like that, huh? He must be up to no good, right?

He just came back from an academic conference in China where he was probably feted for his intellect, only to come back to his home country and be treated like a common criminal.

I just can't understand how most white people don't get it.

Jul. 23 2009 12:06 PM
Joe the Actor

#75 HECTOR NO. I am outraged by this too and I AM A WHITE WOMAN!

Jul. 23 2009 12:05 PM
Joe the Actor

Mike from Inwood. Could you be splitting hairs a little? I saw a photo of Gates being escorted by cops outside of his home. I don't care if it happened on the side walk! Black America has been vocal for years about the danger they feel when dealing with law enforcement. Maybe Gates was irrate for not being believed as well as very sensitive to law enforcement! Doesn't matter. The incident started with a concerned neighbor (I have often locked myself out when taking out the trash and had to climb in my own window and nobody's called the cops on me!), and should have ended when Gates produced his id!

Jul. 23 2009 12:04 PM
Michael G. from Westchester

I think there needs to be greater understanding about racial bias. A person can truly perceive that they have been treated or mistreated with some form of bias without the "perpetrator" being completely aware of it. I visited a posh spa to celebrate with my wife and as I tip-toed through an environment that I am rarely in, I encountered a black man who was waiting for his massage. If he told me that I looked shocked to see him, I would be mortified, embarrassed and disappointed. For me to deny that it was at all possible, however, would be dishonest. I think this inner struggle is the next hurdle in true racial equality, and it needs to be explored in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and schools.

Jul. 23 2009 12:03 PM
JT from Long Island

This bogus arrest shows how police abuse disorderly conduct charges when they're wrong but want to make an arrest anyway. Many of you may remember the police office in NYC that went out of his way to knock over a bicyclist and then charged him with assault for biking into him. Luckily someone recorded the incident with his camera phone and the charges were dropped. In this case Prof. Gates' connections got him out of jail. It's scary to think of how many other cases of bogus charges are out there.

Jul. 23 2009 12:03 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

#27 Sam Nance has, possibly, the best comment so far. The bottom line is Prof. Gates was frustrated by having his right to have something he’s worked for questioned. Regardless of how he acted or his tone, this attitude towards black men in this country is pervasive. It doesn’t matter if he did do something ill-advised, he didn’t do anything illegal.
I’m a black man and I’ve been tracked in stores, accused of stealing an item after showing a receipt less than 3 minutes old (neither needed nor wanted a bag), and been asked to leave a business in the Chelsea shopping area because the shopkeeper felt “uncomfortable” having me there. Relatives have been stopped on the highway seemingly because they drove more expensive model cars and no other reason.
If you’re a black man in the US (north, south, east, or west) you are viewed with a certain level of suspicion and your rights to have what you have are frequently questioned. And even after you prove it’s yours, you’re then questioned on what you did to get it or if you deserve to have it in the first place. This is the truth about race in America. It’s easy to talk about what you would do if you were put in that situation when (if you’re not black) you rarely are. It’s kind of like if a heterosexual man went on and on about how he’d react to being the victim of a date rape situation when that is hardly ever the case.

Jul. 23 2009 12:03 PM
Mike from Inwood

Al Sharpton is an ambulance-chasing civil right leader!

Two greatest civil rights leaders: Malcolm X & Bernard Goetz!

Jul. 23 2009 12:02 PM
Ed from NYC

I'm saddened by the Presidents comment. I have yet to hear him publicly denounce anyone involved in the financial crisis as acting "Stupidly". however the president is asked about an incident that involved police officers encountering someone who holds higher academic credentials and he feels its appropriate to say they acted "Stupidly". I can imagine what it must be like to be a police officer who needs to work around such philosopher kings. Another reason why we need better educated police officers- If our police do not have proper academic credentials they can never be taken as credible when acting against someone who is a part of the academic elite.

Jul. 23 2009 12:02 PM
Mike from Inwood

Hector [75]: Have you noticed your inflamatory and racist remarks (as well as my objective retorts) seem to get deleted?

Jul. 23 2009 12:01 PM

ayo/9 (just tuning back in) --
in response see 1, 3, 7

ps Resisting arrest (esp in a place like Cambridge!) is normally reserved for idiots including people with imaginary chips on their shoulder. I would like to think that Mr. Gates is not an idiot and instead had decided to take on the common police tactic of challenging a suspect in order to measure their character, rather than to measure their guilt or innocence. If that is his motive here I give him credit. If he was pulling a Cynthia McKinney then he needs to be prosecuted for breaking the law just like any other goofball, however black or white.

Jul. 23 2009 12:01 PM
Lauren Wegel from NYC

i myself, a white female, experienced harsher treatment by cops when pulled over in a small town outside of boston. I gave them flack because i was defending myself for going through a detour sign which was not clearly placed in the road. It doesn't matter what color or sex you are, the GOING wisdom in this country is that if you are detained or questioned by a cop, shut up and acquiesce. I don't necessarily believe this is fair or just, but one can understand how they might feel threatened by angry citizens since they probably encounter them fairly often. In any event, by giving the cop 'flack' or 'backtalk' instead of receiving a reprimand (which most likely would have been the case) i was told upon my behavior, that i would receive a court summons in the mail. So I don't believe that it is always about the black man being treated differently than the white man. If you give shit to a cop or cops, you are guaranteed their wrath and harsher punishment as a result.

Jul. 23 2009 11:52 AM
Mireille Liong from Brooklyn,NY

Listen to his story and tell me the President wasn't right. Sometimes people make mistakes, even the police. It was stupid, apologize and move on.
Here is the link:

Jul. 23 2009 11:52 AM
Mike from Inwood

54] ceolaf asks: "If acting arrogant in public confrontations is an arrestable offense, why aren't police officers arrested much more often? Or do different laws apply to cops than to the rest of us?"

The short answer is YES. The police are the only people who can legitimately use force. There are rules surrounding their use of force, but they are different rules than the rest of us follow. Haven't you noticed they carry guns? It's a mandatory 18-month sentence in NYC for you or me, but not them.

Jul. 23 2009 11:52 AM
john from office

Brian, again you cannot interview Black Guest. Ask why is Black America accepting of such a high degree of criminality.

Who would you have the Cops stop and frisk? They patrol a Neighborhood and stop and frisk the people that live there.

Jul. 23 2009 11:51 AM
Abhijit from New Jersey

Other than issues of racial profiling and abuse of power, this case also shows a complete lack of respect for professors, academicians and teachers. Had Professor Gates been a sports or
media personality, he would not have had to go through this. In most other countries academicians are respected and revered by
the society. Not so in America.

Jul. 23 2009 11:46 AM
Lauren Wegel from NYC

I have to say that there are probably dozens of cases out there where other ethnic and sexes were also treated more harshly by the police in response to 'boisturous' behavior and anger towards the cops when feeling violated and righteous. I was pulled over in my hometown for by-passing a detour sign (reasons longer than i can explain here) and began to read me the riot act about the situation. In response I gave him some flack and explained my point of view and the lack of clarity in the road signage. The overall point was I was not a complete supplicant to the whole idea of being pulled over and voiced my own defense and opinions about it all. Rather than just receiving a reprimand which would have been the case otherwise, i was immediately told after talking back, that i was to receive a court summons in the mail.

A friend later told me, 'why the hell did you give the cop a hard time? that is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID and guarantees harsher penalties'.

So you see, most people would agree that even if one is innocent and righteous, that the common wisdom in being stopped or pulled over by a cop is that you AcQUIESCE, no matter what the race. In the instance of talking back to cops, it cuts across ALL races and sexes. I will probably never do so again. whether i was wrong or right, it doesn't matter. I should have just shut up. Respect and acquiescence are all they care about. It's abusive surely, but it is the way it is.

Jul. 23 2009 11:46 AM
Mike from Inwood

[57] Tom from UWS states: "A man's own home is going to be filled with "evidence" that he lives there, from photographs to mail, a passport, and every other kind of document, even if he was not carrying identification.
The police are quite adept, thankfully, at noticing such evidence when the goal is to connect a suspect to the address. Whether it Mr. Gates "overreacted" is open to debate - and since we weren't there, we don't know. We do know that the officer overreacted because we have proof of the arrest."

Professors often don't stay forever and it's a burden buying and selling houses in time to start a semester. The house Gates lives in is owned by Harvard. It may or may not contain all of his personal effects. Gates admits to asking the officer whether he was being treated differently because of his race. Police are often offended when they show up to help and are immediately assumed to be the enemy.

Jul. 23 2009 11:46 AM
Lauren Wegel from NYC

I have to say that there are probably dozens of cases out there where other ethnic and sexes were also treated more harshly by the police in response to 'boisturous' behavior and anger towards the cops when feeling violated and righteous. I was pulled over in my hometown for by-passing a detour sign (reasons longer than i can explain here) and began to read me the riot act about the situation. In response I gave him some flack and explained my point of view and the lack of clarity in the road signage. The overall point was I was not a complete supplicant to the whole idea of being pulled over and voiced my own defense and opinions about it all. Rather than just receiving a reprimand which would have been the case otherwise, i was immediately told after talking back, that i was to receive a court summons in the mail.

A friend later told me, 'why the hell did you give the cop a hard time? that is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID and guarantees harsher penalties'.

So you see, most people would agree that even if one is innocent and righteous, that the common wisdom in being stopped or pulled over by a cop is that you ACQUIESCE, no matter what the race. In the instance of talking back to cops, it cuts across ALL races and sexes. I will probably never do so again. whether i was wrong or right, it doesn't matter. I should have just shut up. Respect and acquiescence are all they care about. It's abusive surely, but it is the way it is.

Jul. 23 2009 11:46 AM

Gates is really well known - you can't tell me his neighbors don't know their neighbor, who is on PBS all the time - I just don't believe that.

Jul. 23 2009 11:45 AM
Tony from Downtown Brooklyn

I don't see what the big deal is. Black people are so sensitive. You don't see white people getting upset every time a distinguished white scholar is arrested in his own home for being "uppity." You don't see white people getting upset every time an unarmed white man is shot 41 times while standing in the vestibule of his building. You don't see white people getting upset when the police sodomize a white person with a toilet plunger. You don't see white people getting upset when they're stopped by the police in disproportionate numbers on NJ's highways and in NYC's streets. I think we should focus on the white undercover policeman who is killed by black police officers in friendly fire incidents.
There's no racism in this post racial society. We're just not focused on the incidents of police abuse when they're directed at white people. Will someone please list the white equivalent of Dr. Gates in this case, of Eleanor Bumpus, of Diallou, of the innocent children(yes children) who served time in the Central Park Rape Case, of the black parents whose missing children are never seriously investigated by police, etc. That way we can prove that there isn't racial bias in this country once and for all.

Jul. 23 2009 11:41 AM

Charles from Harlem - - Obama would get shot no matter WHO he was for trying to break into the White House!

Jul. 23 2009 11:40 AM
Elizabeth in Brooklyn from Brooklyn

My recent experiences with the police is that they have become more militaristic. At the DNC in Denver, they wore dark heavy uniforms, boots and helmets and had no identifying badges. They were transported by Hummer's and had running boards that could hold another group of officers so they could get to other locations quickly and easily. They jumped on anyone at the slightest provocation no matter what there color, age or profession (this is where Amy Goodman was arrested). Will we see more abuse of power by the police in the future whether it be against whites or people of color?

Jul. 23 2009 11:40 AM
Mike from Inwood

To Eric Adams: Perhaps Gates is permitted to act 'boisterously' and harass the officer, but the officer is also permitted to arrest Gates on some technicality ('disorderly in a public space') that should never see the light of day. Did Gates act in a civil manner? Perhaps not. Did the officer act professionally? Perhaps not. They are both people and they both have tempers. Both skirted the edge of where they could suffer consequences. Gates can insult the officer and the officer can arrest Gates for a charge he knows won't stick. If you don't want someone pressing your buttons, don't press theirs. This is the way things work, regardless of race. Does Gates expect things to be different because he is either (or both) well-known or Black?

Jul. 23 2009 11:39 AM
Lance from Miami

from PDF file of (apparent) police report:

Incident Type/Offense: “DISORDERLY CONDUCT”
Reporting Officer: Crowley, James (467)

“As I descended the stairs to the sidewalk, 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. Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly. Gates ignored my warning and continued to yell, which drew the attention of both the police officers and citizens, who appeared surprised and alarmed by Gates’s outburst. For the second time I warned Gates to calm down while I withdrew my department issued handcuffs from their carrying case. Gates again ignored my warning and continued to yell at me. It was at this time that I informed Gates that he was under arrest.”

Jul. 23 2009 11:39 AM
Jorge Dionisio Munoz from Maplewood NJ

Had the police showed up at my home and placed themselves in danger in order to protect MY PROPERTY! I would have bent over backwards to prove who I was and I would have graciously thanked them, I would have even served them coffee and I would have sought out the person that called the police and thanked them for being vigilant. As the old adage goes, "being right is not an excuse for being rude". Had I acted as Mr. Gates did I would have apologized to the policemen. A lesson a police officer may take away from this now is that in the future they will be gun shy and may allow a burglar to go free as a result.

Jul. 23 2009 11:37 AM
adair from brooklyn

How this police officer didn't recognize Henry Louis Gates as a very famous academic is shocking. "America Beyond the Color Line" was incredibly well publicized on TV and in print media. Guess the officer doesn't watch PBS.

Jul. 23 2009 11:35 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

It doesn't matter what Gates said to the policeman, he can say almost anything he wants (1st Amend.): The cop had no right to arrest him because the cop's feelings were hurt.

Get another job if you don't like abuse from the public, and don't arrest people simply because you are embarrassed in front of others. Walk away and reduce your paperwork.

Jul. 23 2009 11:34 AM
Tom from UWS

A man's own home is going to be filled with "evidence" that he lives there, from photographs to mail, a passport, and every other kind of document, even if he was not carrying identification.

The police are quite adept, thankfully, at noticing such evidence when the goal is to connect a suspect to the address.

Whether it Mr. Gates "overreacted" is open to debate - and since we weren't there, we don't know. We do know that the officer overreacted because we have proof of the arrest.

Jul. 23 2009 11:34 AM
Ben from Providence

J - agreed

When this story was first reported on all things considered it was explicitly reported that he produced his Harvard ID --AND-- his drivers license, which had the address of his residence.

I think that perhaps the most basic, important, and indisputable fact Senator Adam's stated, is that no matter how rude, worked up, and verbally abusive Mr. Gates was, their role is to remain calm, professional, and clinical. They were obviously baited by his anger, and here they were in the wrong (no matter whether or not you believe that his indigence was warranted or not).

Jul. 23 2009 11:32 AM

If acting arrogant in public confrontations is an arrestable offense, why aren't police officers arrested much more often?

Or do different laws apply to cops than to the rest of us?

I know what at least some cops believe. Not that long ago, a cop yelled at me not to point at people -- pointing and waving his finger in my face all the while. I'll let you figure out how he and his brethren responded when I pointed out that the same laws apply to them as apply to me.

Jul. 23 2009 11:31 AM
Chris Hale from upper West side

I'm white and when I've had interaction with police and if you raise your voice or challenge them in any way you may treated very roughly and even be arrested. You have to treat police like they're dangerous animals. they use their power illegally all the time.

Jul. 23 2009 11:30 AM
Zach from Brooklyn

the address was on both ids.

"Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver's license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates' photograph, and the license includes his address."

Jul. 23 2009 11:30 AM
Bob R from Connecticut.

Read the police report.

The last caller was correct, Gates did not produce a government ID.

Gates obviously behaved like a complete jerk, but that is not a crime.

Jul. 23 2009 11:30 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

So let's say he's a burgler, and he manages to convince the police that he has a right to be in the house. The police get ready to leave, so he's about to be let off the hook. At that point, he decides to get abusive ensuring that the police will come back to hassle him further?? I don't think so.

Jul. 23 2009 11:29 AM
Robert from NYC

Bravo Eric Adams. I'd vote for you.

Jul. 23 2009 11:29 AM
Mike from Inwood

I think Adams is essentailly correct; Gates offended the officer and he retaliated. While this is unprofessional, it's a nuance of behavior that would be hard to prove in court. The police officer behaved in a manner that was 'stupid', as Obama said; but I don't think the officer did anything that was actionable, either. Gates had just flown back from China. Isn't it believable that he was a bit short?

Jul. 23 2009 11:28 AM
Laura from New York

I'm a white woma who often feels cops are belligerent and arrogant and am afraid to make even the smallest complaint to them. They are in the habit of abusive, disrespectful behavior towards any race. I can understand how a man in his own home would become upset with the arrogance of the police and try to give some back.

Jul. 23 2009 11:28 AM
Paul from Manhattan

Yes, the caller claiming Gates showed no ID is just wrong on the facts. Every news report -- and the Police report -- all say that he showed his driver's license.

Jul. 23 2009 11:28 AM
tom from ny

wow, i'm in trouble - i've been in nyc 25 years and have never had id on me with my current address. (dozens of other pieces of id, but decidedly, nothing with address). - sorry, id as harvard faculty is more impressive than id with address. (not hard for burgler to whip up fake ids)

Jul. 23 2009 11:28 AM
Robert from NYC

The point is is cursing at them a crime? Is it a reason to arrest him? I don't think so and I certainly hope not in this our democratic society.

Jul. 23 2009 11:27 AM

The caller is just wrong. Prof. Gates produced his drivers license.

Jul. 23 2009 11:26 AM
ann m

They arrested him because they did not want to be defied. Their mistake was not thinking that this dark skinned man could actually not be someone to mess with.

Jul. 23 2009 11:26 AM
Robert from NYC

He's absolutely right, we have to stand back and think hard about out predispositions to racial stereotyping. Many of us react to situations on predisposed and unfortunately learned ideas about people in not only race but ethnicity and other personal and cultural aspects of individuals.

Jul. 23 2009 11:25 AM
Amanda from Jersey City

Several weeks ago in my hometown (Garden City, KS) my uncle was mowing his lawn. The mower ran out of gas. He discovered that he was out of gas in the spare can in the garage. So, in an effort to get the lawn mowed in a timely manner, he proceeded to siphon gas out of his own truck (parked in front of his house). A police officer pulled up and demanded to see identification. Of course, my uncle's id was in the house (he was mowing the lawn!!) The police officer continued to harass my uncle until my grandmother came out of the house, shamed the officer for harassing a home owner and basically told the officer to go away. Thank goodness for the power of little white haired ladies!!

Jul. 23 2009 11:25 AM
Sheldon from Crown Heights

This has more to do with a power trip on both parties than race. Mr Gates was upset as he should've. He probably goaded the officer. The officer, being a supposed professional should've just left if he was satisfied that Gates was the legitimate homeowner. Just like the black undercover cop that killed that guy in Clinton Hill should've just left the guy's property when he was told to.

Jul. 23 2009 11:24 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

The police will often react aggressively with ANYONE who gives them lip. It may be correct that the cops are abusing their roles -- I think they do waay too often. But it is not correct to think they react this way only with minorities.

Jul. 23 2009 11:24 AM
Mike from Inwood

The caller is wrong; Gates showed two forms of ID to the police.

Jul. 23 2009 11:23 AM
charlene from boston

I'm more intrigued by the neighbor who called the police in the first place. How do you not know who lives on your block?

Jul. 23 2009 11:22 AM
Bill from New York

We know it's not a crime to be arrogant, but we know that a lot of cops aren't going to be out-egoed by anyone--indeed most of us, black or white, are pretty cowed before cops because we fear what they'll do, not in the name of the law, but with the power they enjoy, or think they enjoy, through their position and our relative powerlessness before it, esp. given that our only recourse is through the legal system they represent. That's cops. We don't know Gates wouldn't have been arrested for that behavior if he'd been white. I bet he would have been.

Jul. 23 2009 11:22 AM
S from Brooklyn

I completely understand that black men and men of color have dealt with a history of unfair and illegal treatment by law enforcement (I won't even get into the # of folks who are incarcerated) - I'd also like to hear some discussion of how police respond inappropriately to WOMEN. As a white woman who has "talked back" to police in NY and Boston and suffered because of it (including a death threat) I think the issue is improper training of police and also the standards for becoming a police officer (veterans with PTSD may not respond well to high stress situations, for example). Any challenge to their authority (a woman with a "big mouth") makes them angry - which is not how one Protects and Serves.

Jul. 23 2009 11:22 AM
Chicago Listener

[[Lance from Miami July 23, 2009 - 11:16AM As Tom Wolfe famously said, "A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested."]]

...and a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.

Jul. 23 2009 11:22 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Question: Was it proper police procedure to enter Gates's house while he went to get his identifiation? I thought police weren't allowed to enter someone's home without a warrent. What is the law here?

Jul. 23 2009 11:22 AM
Charles from Harlem

That the press corps and OBAMA thought his throwaway line, "I'd get shot!" was funny is more troubling to me than Obama's opinion on the Gates arrest.

Jul. 23 2009 11:22 AM
Enrique from Flushing

It's no secret police abuse their powers.

The other day crossing the street on my bike at 930PM to enter my driveway an officer blew a red light without his lights on. He basically ran me off the road and then got mad at me when I called him out on blowing the red light.

He then proceed to turn on his lights and started harassing me by threatening to give me a ticket for bike riding on the wrong side of the street. I was crossing the street to enter my home. These types of actions do not endear the police to the citizenry.

Jul. 23 2009 11:21 AM

I'm a blonde, blue eyed, white, middle class woman and I once had a dispute with a police officer and was arrested.

Disagreeing with the police may not be illegal but they will arrest you for it and do it all the time, regardless of race.

Jul. 23 2009 11:21 AM
Sam Nance from BK

The only question to ask is :Does this happen to any other ethnic group in the same proportion that it happens to African Americans?

Jul. 23 2009 11:20 AM
jen from Brooklyn

Professor Gates did not commit a crime, thus he should not have gotten arrested. Bottom line!

Jul. 23 2009 11:19 AM

Even if the professor were arrogant, the police shouldn't have taken the bait. That's why the police acted stupidly.

Jul. 23 2009 11:19 AM
Katherine from Upper West Side

Can we talk about the neighbor who made the call to the police?
What about the prejudice of the neighbor? How long did Prof Gates live there that his neighbor did not know him?
I knwo we are famous in NYC for not knowing our neighbors, but having spent time in Cambridge, it still seems odd to me the neighbor would not recognize him or KNOW of him.
What kind of prejudice might be present in the neighborhood if they see two African American men yanking on a door and that is their automatic assumption?

Jul. 23 2009 11:17 AM
Gwyneth Swift from Bronx, NYC

When the Prof identified himself and said that he was in his home, why would the police not believe him,shouldn't he live in such a nice house/neighborhood because he is black? As far as the cop is concerned black people shouldn't live in nice homes

Jul. 23 2009 11:17 AM
Lance from Miami

As Tom Wolfe famously said, "A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested."

Jul. 23 2009 11:16 AM
Steve from New York

I worked with the Cambridge PD in the mid '80's. Even then the force was extremely professional and sensitive to racial issues. I was not there, no one was except Gates and the police. But I suspect that knowing Gates lived there and knowing his high profile why would a cop go out of his way to arrest this man if he didn't do something out of order? Just because it is Gates doesnt mean he is immune from acting out whatever the reason. Either way this was not racial profiling, the police were called to this place and this is what they found.

Jul. 23 2009 11:16 AM
Mike from Inwood

Gates was not arrested in his home. The police officer was not White; he is Hispanic. Gates followed the policeman outside into a public space and was arrested there.

Jul. 23 2009 11:16 AM
tom from ny

police doing their job? i'm sorry, i want someone with a cool head in our police force (incl other use towns). hotheaded wannabe cops need not apply. unless gates took a swing at the cop (and i'd almost say that's understandable), this is inexcusable.

Jul. 23 2009 11:14 AM
Chicago Listener

I like this guest. He's making good, common sense. "Don't get hooked!"

Jul. 23 2009 11:13 AM
Joe the Actor

@ #1: You really think boiling this down to that kind of comment is the lesson? This man is always on PBS! He's got a famous face! and lives in Cambridge MA! It wasn't that the police were called, it was because Prof Gates wasn't allowed to show he lived there! I AM NOT BLACK, but when I see this, when Louis Gates Jr. is arrested so easily for disorderly conduct, I PAY ATTENTION! It is all our responsibility to end racial discrimination. We all create this issue. Gates is an older man using a cane, and doesn't dress like a criminal!

Jul. 23 2009 11:13 AM
Chicago Listener

i wish the president had struck a more moderate tone, sympathizing with his friend but urging people to wait for the process to work itself out. after all, professor gates has ample legal and financial resources and did not need the president to speak on his behalf.

that said, i agree that the police went too far and that that might possibly have stemmed from racial bias. i'm not saying that's true, but i do certainly believe it's possible.

so much of this is on a subtle and instinctive level (up to the point that people start screaming at each other, and then it is less subtle).

gates might have heard something harsh or dismissive in the cop's voice. gates might have been exhausted or agitated or equally dismissive.

it's sad that the "stupidly" bit becomes the focus of the news cycle.

Jul. 23 2009 11:10 AM
bob from huntington

Brian: Please see Les Payne's blog on the gates incident.

Jul. 23 2009 11:10 AM
Joe the Actor

This incident was outrageous!!!!!! This man is so brilliant and to have been treated like that in his own home!

Jul. 23 2009 11:08 AM
Karen from NYC

Sorry; error corrected:

Plus (this is me, not Obama), asking for an officer's name and badge number, or accusing that officer of racism, is not disorderly conduct; it's a Constitutional right. Prof. Gates's arrest sounds to me like a Constitutional right's violation.

Jul. 23 2009 11:08 AM
tom from ny

Here’s excerpt from the globe: “The radio show hosts persisted: "Well, hopefully on those other tasks he actually gets his facts straight, because clearly he didn't know what he was talking about when he addressed your little issue." So, what are the facts? Seems on its face to be an outrageous (and I’m trying my best to forget that Boston, while being very progressive, is notoriously the most racist town in the north). Could someone fill me in on how the WEEI host could say Gates owes the cop an apology?
Baffled in midtown.


Jul. 23 2009 11:08 AM
hjs from 11211

cops should be reminded they work for the tax payers. gates' tone is not relevant. once the cop had gates' ID he should have said thanks, sorry for the trouble, have a good nite! I hope the cop loses his job for his unprofessional actions but I know better.

as for BHO why not. he was asked. u should ask why a reporter would ask the president about a local arrest after the charges were dropped. will reporters ask about the arrest of every other black man. strange place we live in

Jul. 23 2009 11:08 AM
Karen from NYC

Obama said the following:

1. It was correct procedure for the police to check a report of a break-in and ask the men in the house to show i.d.

2. It was stupid to arrest Prof. Gates after he had proved, by showing said i.d., that he was the owner of the home.

3. There may have been racial prejudice involved in the cop's stupid behavior; that remains to bee seen.

4. However, racial prejudice is a factor in many arrests of black men; this has already been independently established, and such animus is wrong and injures our society.

Plus (this is me, not Obama), arresting someone for asking for your name and badge number, or because the person accuses you of racism, is not disorderly conduct; it's a Constitutional rights violation.

Jul. 23 2009 11:05 AM
Ayo from BK

Wow! Even the enlightened and Progressives who listen to the Brian Lehrer show still don't get it. The lesson is not about calling the police, Cat Burglar. It's clear that the neighbor was concerned whn he/she called the police. Though it was during the day, so he/she should have recognized their neighbor. The issue is also not how verbally antagonistic Prof. Gates was. It is that the police treated him differently than they would have if he was a white man. No matter how loud he was,he was in no way theatening the police officers. I have seen countless of white people verbally abuse the police after a traffic stop and they are never arrested. This man was arrested in his hoem after he had proved that it was his home. Most police officers would apologize for the confusion and move on with their day. Police offiers, not all, but some, feel that they can treat black men differently and it will be justifiable. The police officer who arrested Skip Gates claims he is not a racist because he gave CPR to a fatally injured black Boston Celtic. This would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.

A black man was sho and killed by the police 2 weeks ago in Brooklyn because he asked the undercover police officer to get of his stoop.

How many white men and women are verbally abusive to the police on a daily basis? How many of them are arrested or murdered by the police?

The end of racism is the beginning of truly equal protection under the law, not the election of an obviuosly qualified black who is also a very good politician.

Jul. 23 2009 10:55 AM

If anyone was harassed by police for being in their own house, after they showed ID, they would get mad.

Unfortunately, this story plays right into the Republican hate machine. It's got all the elements: an uppity, educated black man, reverse racism, blaming the police for racial profiling (even though it's been proven over and over again that it's true). Republicans don't just stir up racism, they stir up hate against educated people (they call them elitists) so this story will give Russ and Co hours of programming for the next two years.

Jul. 23 2009 10:52 AM

(ps -- side issue on this story -- it's a sad statement indeed on the state of today's community life when your watchful neighbors have no idea who you are.)

Jul. 23 2009 10:31 AM


Obama's comment will come back to bite him. You can't call cops stupid for doing their jobs, which is what they did until proven otherwise.

Jul. 23 2009 10:28 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

During his press conference, President Obama declared that the police officers who arrested an African American Harvard professor “acted stupidly.” It concerns me that President Obama does not make similar comments regarding gay rights in this country. President Obama is leading the charge of the religious left. He safely speaks out against the possible mistreatment of an African American but continues to treat gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Americans as second class citizens because his religious beliefs guide him to do so.

I want my President to have the courage to speak out for gay rights and I want my President to make decisions based on sound policy, not based on his religious beliefs.

Jul. 23 2009 10:16 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

I agree with Connie's comment....We have heard nothing about the verbal interchange. We don't know the tone of voice or choice of words that were used. Everything needs to be looked at....

Jul. 23 2009 10:14 AM

(Or is the lesson that resisting arrest is NOT against the law -- sometimes?)

Jul. 23 2009 10:13 AM

President Obama's intentions are outstanding. Congress needs a template if anything right comes out of all the grandstanding going on today.

I am concerned by President Obama's comment (sound byte) about Professor Gates being part of racial profiling. I was under the impression that Professor Gates was arrested because he was verbally antagonistic and continued speaking abusively to the police officer. Help!

If I were trying to get into my house at night and my neighbor could not recognize that the person trying to get in the house was me, I would be happy that my house was being looked after by my neighbor and that the police came to investigate. But if my neighbor could see it was me, then I would be mad at my neighbor, not the police officer.

Did the police officer do something wrong? I have not heard anything on that topic.


Jul. 23 2009 10:13 AM
Cat Burgular Smidely from Cambridge, MA

Burgle me this:

So the lesson here is that when you see a stranger apparently breaking into your neighbor's house, and it's a black man, do NOT call the police -- or the president will be irritated.

Got it?

Jul. 23 2009 10:10 AM

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