Obama Criticizes Arrest of Harvard Professor

Professor Gates being arrested in front of his own house continues to resonate. President Obama even gave his opinion, when asked at last night’s White House news conference.

Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times asked him about the case and what it said about race relations in America.

Mr. Obama paused, then said, “Well, I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here.”

Then he made his only joke of the evening, as he speculated about what would happen if he were seen trying to force the door of his own home? “I guess this is my house now,” he said, “so it probably wouldn’t happen.” Then, after a beat, he added, “Let’s say my old house in Chicago. Here, I’d get shot.”

The president then became serious, taking up a chronology of the events last week after the police received a report of a possible break-in at the home of Mr. Gates, a leading authority on African-American history.

“The police are doing what they should,” he said. “There’s a call. They go investigate. What happens?

“My understanding is that Professor Gates then shows his I.D. to show that this is his house, and at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct.”.

“I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that,” Mr. Obama continued. “But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and No. 3, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by police disproportionately. That’s just a fact.”

[Click to continue reading Obama Criticizes Arrest of Harvard Professor – NYTimes.com]


Yeah, no kidding. Police should be trained well enough to be able to listen to people complain to them without the police feeling they have to “show their power” by arresting innocent people. No matter what Professor Gates said, arresting him was just a power play by the officer “I’ll show this asshole who dared question my authority, why, I’ll arrest him on trumped-up charges!”

Professor Gates was interviewed by Dayo Olopade of The Root, and disputes the allegation that he even was yelling at the officer

The police report says I was engaged in loud and tumultuous behavior. That’s a joke. Because I have a severe bronchial infection which I contracted in China and for which I was treated and have a doctor’s report from the Peninsula hotel in Beijing. So I couldn’t have yelled. I can’t yell even today, I’m not fully cured.

It escalated as follows: I kept saying to him, ‘What is your name, and what is your badge number?’ and he refused to respond. I asked him three times, and he refused to respond. And then I said, ‘You’re not responding because I’m a black man, and you’re a white officer.’ That’s what I said. He didn’t say anything. He turned his back to me and turned back to the porch. And I followed him. I kept saying, “I want your name, and I want your badge number.”

It looked like an ocean of police had gathered on my front porch. There were probably half a dozen police officers at this point. The mistake I made was I stepped onto the front porch and asked one of his colleagues for his name and badge number. And when I did, the same officer said, ‘Thank you for accommodating our request. You are under arrest.’ And he handcuffed me right there. It was outrageous. My hands were behind my back I said, ‘I’m handicapped. I walk with a cane. I can’t walk to the squad car like this.’ There was a huddle among the officers; there was a black man among them. They removed the cuffs from the back and put them around the front.

A crowd had gathered, and as they were handcuffing me and walking me out to the car, I said, ‘Is this how you treat a black man in America?’

[Click to continue reading Skip Gates Speaks]

Of course there are elements in the US1 that support any and all actions by police officers, even when they are clearly in the wrong. I’m not linking to any of these, but on nearly every article I’ve read about the incident, there is a vocal and often surprisingly openly racist contingent who defend the police. These people frighten me with their deference to power, as the phrase goes, might doesn’t make right.

The Smoking Gun has the police report which obviously contradicts some of Professor Gates’ statements

  1. and the world – don’t know if the whole world is watching this incident, but having the President speak of it will certainly elevate it []

4 thoughts on “Obama Criticizes Arrest of Harvard Professor

  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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.