Barbarians at the Gates
Henry Louis Gates Jr. a black scholar at Harvard is arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after police come to his home in Cambridge to investigate a suspected break-in.
According to police, a woman saw two men using their shoulders to push in the front door to the home and called the cops. Turned out the men were Gates and his "driver" and the door was just stuck.
When the cops arrived, Gates was inside the house on the phone. When the professor was asked for identification he allegedly said "Why? Because I am a black man in America?"
Actually, It was because a neighbor had called the police and the officers were attempting to prevent Gates' home from being burglarized.
Police alleged that after Gates' showed ID, he followed them out of his house yelling at them. They described his behavior as "loud and tumultuous."
Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree is acting as Gates' spokesman.
"He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification," Ogletree said.
There are several possible scenarios here and none of them reflect well on the police or Gates. If the police informed him that they were investigating a possible break-in, he should have been grateful that they showed up so quickly. If they didn't maybe he was justified in being shocked. Maybe he was offended at not being recognized being such a famous scholar and all. Maybe he was just tired after a long trip and didn't feel like being polite and cooperative.
Ogletree said Gates repeatedly asked one of the police officer's for his name and badge number and when he didn't give it, followed him out on the porch to demand it. That's where he was handcuffed and arrested. That was dumb. The cops knew he was not a burglar at this point. So what if he was acting like a jackass. It's not against the law to give a police officer a hard time in your own house or on your own porch. Not that I recommend it. Apparently, this particular cop had to get the last word in. He should have told the apparently outraged Prof. Gates to "Have a nice day," rolled his eyes at his partner and gone about his business.
Gates, according to a fellow professor who picked him up at the police station was humilated and "emotionally devasted." What he should be is embarassed. Instead of cooperating with the officers and appreciating their efforts on his behalf, it sounds like he immediately got confrontational and stayed that way.
Then again, it's not as if cops don't overreact in some such situations. And nothing about this arrest sounds justified. Simply being disrespectful to a police officer is not against the law.
This much is probably true, if a white professor had acted similarly to Gates he might have been unjustly arrested too but much less fanfare.