Row in The USA after Police arrests black scholar


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The news which now storm the USA is arrest of a black scholar from his own house by white police officer of Cambridge Police Department. The USA president Mr. Barak Hussain Obama's comment fuelled the situation....

Harvard Prof Arrested in His Own Home - The Paper Trail (

Harvard Prof Arrested in His Own Home

July 21, 2009 05:13 PM ET | Jeff Greer

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is one of the most prominent African-American scholars in the world. He's written and edited more than 50 books. He's hosted several series and specials on television. He's received 49 honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the world. He was named as one of the 25 most influential Americans by Time magazine in 1997. And he's the director of the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University.

He's kind of a big deal.

That's why it was surprising when Cambridge, Mass., police showed up at Gates's house on Thursday and arrested him. The police were responding to an emergency call reporting a break-in in progress at Gates's house. When they arrived, Gates, who had been having trouble getting his door open, was already inside, friends said. Incensed by what he called racial profiling, Gates accused the investigating officer of being racist, the police report said. Police eventually arrested Gates outside of his home and charged him with disorderly conduct, saying Gates yelled repeatedly at the investigating officer and would not calm down.

But a joint statement was released today announcing that the charges against Gates were dropped, and Cambridge police will not comment further on the situation.

"The city of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department, and Professor Gates acknowledge that the incident of July 16, 2009, was regrettable and unfortunate," the statement said. "This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department. All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances."


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
NPR: Racial Profiling Goes High Profile

Racial Profiling Goes High Profile

A bicyclist passes by the home of Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates in
Cambridge, Mass. Gates was arrested last week while trying to force open
the locked front door of his home near Harvard University. Following public
outcries of racism and widespread media attention, the city announced
Tuesday its plan to dismiss charges against Gates. AP

You just came home from an overseas trip. You're tired, probably jet lagged. You get to your front door. It won't open. It looks as if it's been tampered with. Uh oh. Have you been burglarized? Is something missing?

The TV? The stereo? The computer?

Or is the door just stuck?

So you let yourself in the back door, turn off the alarm, and do a quick look around. Your driver brings in the luggage while you call the repair guy to ask him to look at the door. ... And what do you see?

A police officer standing in your door.

And what's this?! He is asking you who you are. He wants to know if you can prove this is your house. He thinks you burglarized your own house.

You are a police officer. You get a 911 call about two black men, and the caller says, "I see them trying to force the door."

You show up. You see a man. He's on the phone. You demand ID. He produces it but then demands yours, too, and you think he's becoming kind of agitated and a bit loud.

So, how do you respond to this? How does this end?

I am guessing your answer depends on a number of variables, and, yes -- like it or not -- race is probably one of them. Your race, the officer's race, his or her attitude toward you, and, frankly, each of your past experiences are all factors.

Yes, it's another of those stories.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of this country's best known scholars, was arrested at his home last week in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had just returned from China.

And here's a excerpt from Gates' full statement, made through his attorney and colleague Charles Ogletree, whom we spoke with earlier in the day:

... Professor Gates immediately called the Harvard Real Estate office to report the damage to his door and requested that it be repaired immediately. As he was talking to the Harvard Real Estate office on his portable phone in his house, he observed a uniformed officer on his front porch. When Professor Gates opened the door, the officer immediately asked him to step outside. Professor Gates remained inside his home and asked the officer why he was there. The officer indicated that he was responding to a 911 call about a breaking and entering in progress at this address. Professor Gates informed the officer that he lived there and was a faculty member at Harvard University. The officer then asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. ...

How is this going to end?

After speaking with Ogletree, the City of Cambridge announced their plans to have charges dropped against Gates. An excerpt from that statement (the full announcement is posted to an updated conversation we later had with Gates' colleague, fellow law professor Randall Kennedy, who reacted to the news):

... The City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department, and Professor Gates acknowledge that the incident of July 16, 2009 was regrettable and unfortunate. This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department. All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances. ...

That may be so, but the discussion continues ...


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
Charges Against Henry Louis Gates Dropped : NPR

Legal Affairs
Charges Against Henry Louis Gates Dropped
by Chris Arnold

Josh Reynolds

Henry Louis Gates Jr., historian and
director of the W.E.B. Du Bois
Institute for African and African-
American Research at Harvard
University, seen in 2008, was
arrested Thursday at his home in
Cambridge, Mass. Police dropped
charges against him Tuesday. AP

All Things Considered, July 21, 2009 · Disorderly conduct charges were dropped against Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass., last week after apparently being mistaken for a burglar.

Gates, historian and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard, returned from China on Thursday and found his front door swelled shut. Someone saw him and his driver force open the door and called police.

By the time a police sergeant showed up, Gates was already inside.

Before Gates could say anything to the officer, his lawyer Charles Ogletree said, he was asked to step outside.

Ogletree, also a Harvard professor, said Gates walked to the door and was asked to step outside. Gates explained that he lived in the house, Ogletree said, but the sergeant insisted he come out. When Gates asked who the officer was, the lawyer said, the officer asked for identification.

Differing Accounts

As word spread, fellow black professors at Harvard accused the police of racism. Blogs and local TV shows buzzed with the story.

Police dismissed the charges Tuesday.

"This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department," said Kelly Downes, a spokeswoman for the department. "All parties agree this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances."

Downs said race was not a factor in the arrest, which she called justified. Some experts, such as Dennis Kenney, a former police officer and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, raise their eyebrows at that assertion.

The charges being dropped "suggests there was no backing to the arrest, which, in fact, now does expose the department and the officer to some civil risk as well," he said.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Press Association: Storm over black scholar's arrest

Storm over black scholar's arrest

(UKPA) – 3 days ago

The arrest of a prominent black Harvard University scholar who attempted a "break in" at his own house has led to accusations of racial profiling by police.

Officers in Cambridge, Boston, arrested Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr, 58, last week over alleged disorderly conduct after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch" with one "trying to force entry".

Mr Gates, head of the university's WEB Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, had been trying to get into his house after the door jammed, his lawyer has since explained. The incident led to an outcry from civil rights leaders.

By the time officers arrived Mr Gates had gained entry to the property using a key to get into the back door. It is alleged he refused to come out to speak to authorities who told him they were investigating a break-in.

"Why, because I'm a black man in America?" Mr Gates said, according to a police report.

The Harvard professor initially refused to hand over identification but after repeated requests gave his driver's licence and Harvard ID.

As he walked on to his porch with officers he was handcuffed and arrested on a disorderly conduct charge. A police report said he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behaviour".

After being kept in cells for four hours he was released and was due to appear in court on August 26 over the incident.

Prosecutors later announced that charges of disorderly conduct against Mr Gates had been dropped.

The City of Cambridge issued a statement saying that the arrest was "regrettable and unfortunate".


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
Racial profiling is alive and well - The Boston Globe

Carol Rose
The Boston Globe
Racial profiling is alive and well

(AP Photo/Demotix Images, B. Carter)
In this photo taken by a neighbor, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is arrested
at his home in Cambridge.

By Carol Rose
July 22, 2009

THE ARREST of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. after he was confronted by police while trying to open the front door to his home is the latest reminder that racism is alive and well even in the most wealthy and progressive enclaves of Massachusetts. Although the criminal charges against Gates were dropped yesterday, the incident is the latest clue - for those who need one - that we’re a long way from being a “post-racial’’ society in Massachusetts.

Gates was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after a passerby called the Cambridge police to report a man “wedging his shoulder into the front door as to pry the door open,’’ according to a police report. A review of the police report suggests that the police officer arrested Gates not because he mistook Gates for a robber but because Gates condemned the behavior of the officer as racist. His offending remark reportedly was, “This is what happens to black men in America.’’

That’s not disorderly conduct; that’s speaking truth to power - which still isn’t a crime in America.

The incident also flies in the face of emerging views in the United States - and in Massachusetts - that we are living in a post-racial society, that race no longer matters, as evidenced by the fact that we have elected an African-American president and governor. But this and similar incidents that take place every day illustrate that we are far from being a post-racial society.

Targeting black men as “suspicious’’ has long been a problem in Massachusetts law enforcement.

Consider the 2003 case of King Downing, director of the National Campaign Against Racial Profiling for the ACLU, who was detained at Logan Airport when he refused to provide identification to a police officer. Downing sued, saying he was the victim of racial profiling, and a jury found that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. Apparently, the Cambridge police didn’t get the message that detaining people based on their color is unconstitutional in America.

Maybe the Cambridge police officer was instead following the example set in the case of Jason Vassell, a former student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with no previous criminal history. Vassell, an African-American, was recently charged with aggravated assault and battery in the stabbing of two men inside his dormitory. The incident started when the two men, both white, reportedly smashed Vassell’s window while hurling racial epithets at him, then entered the building and attacked Vassel. The two white attackers got off lightly, while Vassell is facing serious jail time.

Or perhaps the Cambridge police thought that they could just ignore the law. That’s what some 40 percent of 247 Massachusetts police departments have done in response to a state law that requires them to track the race and gender of people stopped by police for alleged traffic violations, according to the Executive Office of Public Safety.

Those departments were found to have apparent racial disparities in traffic citations after a year-long study of citation patterns throughout Massachusetts. Rather than comply with the requirement to track all stops, however, nearly half of Massachusetts law enforcement agencies have simply disregarded the law.

Massachusetts is long overdue to address charges of racism in law enforcement. A good starting point would be passage of a bill introduced by Representative Byron Rushing and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, both Democrats from Boston. This legislation, “An Act Providing for the Collection of Data Relative to Traffic Stops,’’ would build upon the existing law with requirements that include the collection of more detailed data and the creation of an advisory committee to monitor the efforts.

The Legislature should pass this law as a first step - not a final step - toward acknowledging the ongoing problem of racism in Massachusetts policing.

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
Gates arrest: racial profiling or 'tempest in a teapot'? |

In this 2008 file photo, Henry Louis Gates poses for a photograph in his home in Cambridge, Mass. Gates has accused the Cambridge police of racism after being arrested trying to get into his own locked home near Harvard University on July 16.
Josh Reynolds/AP/File

Gates arrest: racial profiling or 'tempest in a teapot'?

The city of Cambridge, Mass., has dropped its charges against a Harvard professor who alleges he was arrested for breaking into his own house only because he is black.

By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the July 21, 2009 edition

Prosecutors in Cambridge, Mass., on Tuesday dropped disorderly conduct charges against Henry Louis Gates, a prominent professor at Harvard University and author of multiple books about the black experience in America.

But Mr. Gates' arrest on the front porch of his own home last week became a moment of national reflection, with Gates insisting that the incident was evidence of the persistence of racial profiling – even in one of America's most liberal cities.

Gates has told The Washington Post that he now intends to do a documentary on racial profiling – an idea that had "never crossed his mind" before now. The "criminal justice system is rotten," he said.

Gates was returning from filming a TV project called "Faces of America" in China last Thursday. According to the police report, police received a call that two men black were trying to break into Gates's house. In fact, the two men were Gates and his driver, who were trying to open the front door, which was jammed.

Both sides have suggested that the other was argumentative. The police report says Gates eventually became verbally abusive, accusing the officer of suspecting him simply because he was black. He was arrested soon after and placed in jail for four hours.

Cambridge police officials claim that the incident was an unfortunate escalation of wills. "I think what went wrong is that you had two human beings that were reacting ... and cooler heads did not prevail," said Cambridge police spokeswoman Kelly Downes. "It wasn't Professor Gates's best moment, and it was not the Cambridge Police Department's best moment."

Law enforcement analysts are inclined to agree, suggesting that the incident may have been only a "tempest in a teapot."

"The best motto for a police officer is that sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me," says George Kirkham, a former police officer and now a professor of criminology at Florida State University. "People wind up venting, and you have to let them vent."

Moreover, police officers should be particularly aware of historical injustices suffered by African Americans, he adds: "Blacks have had experiences with bullhorns and dogs in the South, and those wounds go deep – they're more sensitive and we need to realize that."

Commentators have taken both sides. Garrard McClendon, a black Chicago talk show host, called Gates's cries of racism "weak." But David Bernstein of the legal blog, the Volokh Conspiracy, writes: "Yelling at a cop isn't a crime."

Twenty-three states, including Massachusetts, have enacted legislation banning racial profiling. But such practices – stopping suspects on the basis of what they look like – are still prevalent, some say. A recent study showed that 89 percent of traffic stops in New York City involved non-whites.

"We are a country founded on Jeffersonian ideals, and people don't like government in their lives," says Professor Kirkham. "[Police] need to be aware of that."


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: Obama: Take heat out of Gates-Crowley brouhaha

Obama: Take heat out of Gates-Crowley brouhaha

(AP) – 11 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — The chief White House spokesman says a Thursday meeting among the president, a Harvard University scholar and the policeman who arrested him will be "about having a beer and de-escalation."

Robert Gibbs says the session, weather permitting, is planned for a picnic table outside the Oval Office. According to Gibbs, "The president wants to continue to take down the temperature a bit."

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is black, was arrested last week by Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass., police department, who is white, after an investigation into a suspected burglary found no burglars but escalated into a heated exchange between the men at Gates' home.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: Gates 911 call: Witness not sure she sees crime

Gates 911 call: Witness not sure she sees crime

By RUSSELL CONTRERAS (AP) – 11 hours ago

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The 911 caller who reported two men possibly breaking into the home of black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. did not describe their race, acknowledged they might just be having a hard time with the door and said she saw two suitcases on the porch.

Cambridge police on Monday released the 911 recording and radio transmissions from the scene in an effort to show they had nothing to hide, but the tapes raised new questions about how and why the situation escalated.

Gates' July 16 arrest on a disorderly conduct charge sparked a national debate about whether the professor was a victim of racial profiling. Gates, returning from a trip to China, and his driver had forced their way through the front door because it was jammed, and the charge was later dropped.

In her 911 call, Lucia Whalen, who works at the Harvard alumni magazine, repeatedly tells the operator she is not sure what is happening.

Speaking calmly, she tells the operator that she was stopped by an elderly woman who told her she noticed two men trying to get into a house. Whalen initially says she saw two men pushing on the door, but later says one of the men entered the home and she didn't get a good look at him. She says she noticed two suitcases.

"I don't know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key. But I did notice they used their shoulder to try to barge in and they got in. I don't know if they had a key or not, 'cause I couldn't see from my angle," Whalen says.

She does not mention the race of the men until pressed by a dispatcher to describe them.

"Um, well, there were two larger men," Whalen says. "One looked kind of Hispanic, but I'm not really sure. And the other one entered and I didn't see what he looked like at all. I just saw it from a distance and this older woman was worried, thinking, 'Someone's been breaking in someone's house. They've been barging in.'"

The officer who arrested Gates, Sgt. James Crowley, said in his police report that he talked to Whalen soon after he arrived at Gates' home. "She went on to tell me that she observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch," Crowley, who's white, wrote in his report.

Whalen's attorney, Wendy Murphy, said her client never mentioned the men's race to Crowley and is upset by news reports she believes have unfairly depicted her as a racist.

"She doesn't live in the area. She is by no means the entitled white neighbor. ... That has been the theme in the blogs and the implication in some of the mainstream news media," Murphy said in a phone interview Monday.

In his written report, Crowley said Gates became angry when he told him he was investigating a report of a break-in, then yelled at him and called him a racist.

In a radio communication with a dispatcher, also released Monday, Crowley said Gates was not cooperating.

"I'm up with a gentleman, says he resides here, but was uncooperative, but keep the cars coming," Crowley said.

Another voice can be heard in the background of the transmission, but it is unintelligible and unclear if it is Gates.

Cambridge police Commissioner Robert Haas acknowledged that the police report contains a reference to race, but said the report is merely a summary of events.

Gates did not immediately return an e-mail message, and his spokesman did not return e-mail and telephone messages.

Crowley could not be reached for comment. A message left at the police station was not returned, and no one answered the phone at his Natick home.

The professor's supporters called his arrest an outrageous act of racial profiling. Crowley's supporters say Gates was arrested because he was belligerent and that race was not a factor.

Interest in the case intensified when President Barack Obama said at a White House news conference last week that Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates. He later tried to quell the uproar about his comments and invited both Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer. That meeting was scheduled for Thursday evening, an administration official said on the condition of anonymity because the meeting had not been announced.

David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said he did not think the latest revelations related to the 911 caller would change many opinions on the case.

"My guess is that that adds nothing to the conviction of black Americans that the cops like to lie a lot," Kennedy said. "It's just another example of something they already thoroughly believe, and that if it affects the views of those who generally trust the police, it would affect it in a very small way at most."

Gov. Deval Patrick, a black friend of Gates who last week called the arrest "every black man's nightmare," said Monday he wouldn't apologize for his remarks.

A multiracial group of police officers and union officials supporting Crowley had called on the governor to say he was sorry. But the governor said he wasn't sure why he was being asked to apologize.

Patrick said he acknowledged from the beginning he wasn't at Gates' home to witness the arrest, and he said Crowley seemed to be "a pretty good guy."

Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Boston and Philip Elliott in Washington contributed to this report.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: AP source: Gates and Crowley going to White House

AP source: Gates and Crowley going to White House

By CHARLES BABINGTON (AP) – 11 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The professor, the policeman and the president are ready to share a beer — and maybe a few thoughts about race and law enforcement in America.

The gathering set for Thursday evening may help President Barack Obama write a sudsy but happy ending to an arrest that triggered a fierce debate over race relations and briefly knocked him off his stride.

An administration official said Monday that Obama is hosting the two main characters in the unlikely Boston-area drama that dominated several news cycles last week: Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass., police department. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public.

Crowley, who is white, arrested Gates, who is black, after an investigation into a suspected burglary found no burglars but escalated into a heated exchange between the men at Gates' home. When Obama said last Wednesday that the police had "acted stupidly," the national debate over racial profiling become so fierce that the president had to intercede again on Friday to get the public's attention back to his health care agenda.

Thus did a brief afternoon encounter turn into an ardently debated conflict in which other Americans drew their own conclusions about racial bias, proper deference to police and a president's appropriate role in a local law enforcement matter.

Obama phoned Crowley, who suggested the three men sit down for a beer at the White House. The president said he liked the idea, and Gates reportedly concurred when Obama phoned him next.

But what to serve? Crowley apparently likes Blue Moon beer. Gates favors Red Stripe or Beck's. Don't look for Obama to order a similar high-priced brand, however.

"The president had a Budweiser at the All-Star Game," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, hinting at Obama's likely choice.

Ah, yes, the middle-class, mid-priced working man's brew, for a president who once drew snickers for musing about arugula in middle-America Iowa.

The meeting with Gates and Crowley in the planning stages, Gibbs said the president was hoping for "an increased dialogue between both of the individuals here and their representation of both law enforcement and the minority community."

Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: Mass. police heard calling Gates uncooperative

Mass. police heard calling Gates uncooperative

By RUSSELL CONTRERAS (AP) – 17 hours ago

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Cambridge police sergeant who responded to a 911 call about a possible break-in at the home of black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. told dispatchers that Gates was being uncooperative and to "keep the cars coming." Another voice can be heard in the background of the transmission, but it is unintelligible and unclear if it is Gates.

Cambridge police released recordings of police radio transmissions and of the 911 call Monday following more than a week of controversy over Gates' July 16 arrest on a disorderly conduct charge. The charge was dropped, but the encounter sparked a national debate about racial profiling.

Gates' supporters called his arrest by Sgt. James Crowley an outrageous act of racial profiling. Crowley's supporters say Gates was arrested because he was belligerent and that race was not a factor.

Interest in the case intensified when President Barack Obama said at a White House news conference last week that Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates. He later tried to quell the uproar about his comments and invited both Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer, a meeting that could happen this week, according to the White House.

In the 911 recording released Monday, caller Lucia Whalen tells police she saw two men pressing on the door of a home, but says she is unsure whether the men live there or if they were trying to break in. She said she saw two suitcases on the porch.

"I don't know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key. But I did notice they used their shoulder to try to barge in and they got in. I don't know if they had a key or not cause I couldn't see from my angle," Whalen said.

Whalen does not mention the race of the men she saw until pressed by a dispatcher to describe them. At that point, she said one of the men may have been Hispanic.

In Crowley's report, he said he spoke to Whalen at the scene and she reported seeing two black men on the porch.

Whalen's attorney, Wendy Murphy, said her client did not mention the men's race to Crowley and is upset by news reports she believes have unfairly depicted her as a racist.

"She doesn't live in the area. She is by no means the entitled white neighbor. ... That has been the theme in the blogs and the implication in some of the mainstream news media," Murphy said in a phone interview Monday.

In the radio transmissions, Crowley tells a dispatcher he is at the home where the possible break-in was reported.

"I'm up with a gentleman, says he resides here, but was uncooperative, but keep the cars coming," Crowley said.

In his written police report, Crowley said Gates became angry when he told him he was investigating a report of a break-in, then yelled at him and called him a racist.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
Obama to pour beer over America's racial ferment - US - World - NEWS - The Times of India

Obama to pour beer over America's racial ferment
Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN 26 July 2009, 05:14pm IST

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama is drafting beer, the world’s oldest and most popular alcoholic drink, to calm America’s latest racial ferment.

Barack Obama.

In an unexpected boost to the US beer industry, a little unsteady after its iconic Budweiser was parceled off to the Belgian-Brazilian beer giant InBev last year, Obama has invited Massachusetts cop Sergeant James Crowley and Harvard don Prof. Henry Louis Gates, who had a racial run-in last week, to the White House to smoke the peace pipe  over a beer. They have both accepted the invitation.

Obama moved to defuse the situation that he partially aggravated when he weighed in in favor of the Harvard don, a distinguished African-American scholar and a close personal friend, by saying the police had acted ''stupidly'' in arresting him when he (Gates) called them about a burglary in his house. It turned out that the President made several questionable assumptions, including suggesting that the incident was racially motivated, and the President has since backed off a bit.

Although everyone agrees that racial profiling exists in the U.S and blacks are victims of bias from many white policemen, it turns out that Sgt.Crowley is far from a racist cop. He has a good reputation as a fair-minded policeman. Mixed-race police unions sprang to Crowley’s defense and criticized Obama for his uninformed comments even as many liberal commentators underlined the incident to suggest racism and racial profiling of black males remains a problem in America.

Now Obama is seeking to dampen the kerfuffle, drawing on a rich beer-drinking culture that was endorsed even by the country’s founding fathers. ''Beer, if drunk with moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health,'' Thomas Jefferson said, while Benjamin Franklin insisted that ''Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.'' Even Abraham Lincoln gave beer a burp.

That Americans love to grin and beer it was proclaimed most effervescently by the humorist Dave Barry who famously noted: ''Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.''

Obama has shown himself as something of a beer-buff, stopping by occasionally during his presidential campaign trail for a quaff. American brewers launched at least three beers when he was elected, including ''InaugurAle'' from Chicago’s Pierce Brewery for his January 20 Inauguration, and ''Audacity of Hops'' from a home-brewer.

On Friday, when he called Sgt.Crowley at an Irish pub in Cambridge, the President wanted to know what beer he was drinking. ''Blue Moon Belgian White,'' Crowley replied. The President said he liked it too.

Beer-boosters are now in a fizz about which beer Obama should serve at the peace summit between Crowley and Gates. Suggestions include Sam Adams Boston Lager, home brew for the brief antagonists; Guinness, the quintessential Irish stout (since both Crowley and Gates claim some Irish lineage); and Goose Island Honkers Ale, a local brew from the President’s hometown Chicago.

Some others are suggesting they graduate to single malt or cognac, but given Obama’s lager than life reputation as a beer-buff, it is likely to be an ale and hearty meeting.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
Why Henry Louis Gates Should Sue - The Moral of the Story Blog -

July 27, 2009, 11:59 pm

Why Henry Louis Gates Should Sue
By Randy Cohen

Librado Romero/The New York Times
Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his Manhattan apartment.

The Issue

Last week in Cambridge, Mass., Sgt. James Crowley arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor at Harvard, for disorderly conduct while responding to a reported break-in at Gates’s home. The charges were subsequently dropped, and the city of Cambridge expressed regret, but Gates holds out the possibility of suing Crowley, the city or its Police Department. President Obama has urged calm and conciliation, and invited Gates and Crowley to have a beer and a chat at the White House. Should Gates sip or sue?

The Argument

Gates should enjoy a cool one and then file suit, assuming he has legal grounds to do so. We Americans are often mocked for being overly litigious, but we are not nearly litigious enough. In the right circumstances, filing suit can be a way to pursue social justice, and that makes it thoroughly ethical.

I am not encouraging frivolous lawsuits or those inspired by TV pitchmen who use the words “slip and fall” as if invoking El Dorado. Rather, I refer to suits filed to oppose systemic injustice, for the benefit of the larger community, often at some personal risk and expense. This is not opportunism; it’s altruism, not self-interest but civic virtue. A lawsuit by Gates could lead to a formal examination of the troubled history of police interactions with African-Americans and hence would meet this standard.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, an organization that has sued the New York Police Department many times on behalf of individuals and groups, told me that lawsuits can be “an important tool for reform when coupled with advocacy and public education efforts and when the circumstances are conducive to change.”

Such laudable results can flow not only from great historic decisions — Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade — but from local actions, like the N.Y.C.L.U.’s suits over the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policies and its handling of demonstrators during the 2004 Republican convention. Simply participating in such a suit can be regarded as the crowning achievement of a lifetime. When the pediatrician Howard Engle died last week, the headline of his obituary in The New York Times was “H. A. Engle, Tobacco Plaintiff, Dies at 89.”

Indeed, our popular culture lionizes those who sue righteously. Paul Newman wins a medical malpractice case in “The Verdict.” Julia Roberts takes on a polluting power company in “Erin Brockovich.” John Travolta sues a company dumping toxic waste in “A Civil Action.” (And these last two movies were based on actual people and cases.)

Even a losing lawsuit can compel a powerful institution — government agency or corporation — to disclose its policies and practices during legal proceedings. A lawsuit can provide a public forum to examine a significant issue, guided by a dispassionate judge. What could be more virtuous?

There are arguments against going to law. For Gates in particular, using the courts is hardly the only way to be heard. He has been widely interviewed about the arrest; even his daughter has spoken about it on television. (Crowley first told his side of the story on a local sports talk-radio show.) So prominent is Gates that a reporter at a White House press conference asked the president about the arrest. Gates could write a book about it, lecture about it at Harvard or explore it in a television series. (He was returning from shooting one in China the day of the incident.)

Nor is he ethically obligated to sue. Doing so is supererogatory, above and beyond the call of duty. Only he can decide if he has the stomach for a struggle and the resources — financial, psychological — to proceed.

And if he does, there is no guarantee that he would initiate real social change. David Feige, the former trial chief of the Bronx Defenders, public defenders in, well, yes, the Bronx, told me: “There is a fairly equivocal record in forcing reforms through individual lawsuits. Class-action suits have been more effective — those brought to improve prison conditions, for example. So what we really need is more broad, social-justice class-action suits.”

These arguments notwithstanding, Gates should sue. Social change proceeds through the combination of many forces — legislation, litigation and public discourse among them. For Gates to contribute to this effort would be laudable. (And given the high — and disheartening — number of African-American men who, since Gates arrest, have described their own similar encounters with the police, the class-action suit Feige calls for might be sadly possible.)

The president has softened his initial response to this affair, withdrawing his remark at the press conference that “the Cambridge police acted stupidly.” He now suggests that both Gates and Crowley “overreacted.” Quite likely. But if Gates overreacted, he did so only as an individual, an outburst that might be obnoxious but is not criminal. There is no law against Contempt of Cop. If Crowley overreacted, he erred as a professional, perhaps abusing his office in a manner that is particularly fraught, given the history of African-Americans and the police. That’s what should be examined in court.

Both Crowley and Gates have accepted Obama’s invitation. Courteous conversation is a fine thing; beer is a fine thing. But not even White House brew can resolve this conflict the way a trial can. Gates and Crowley should drink heartily, speak civilly and eventually reconvene in a courtroom.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: Analysis: What they saw during the Gates arrest

Analysis: What they saw during the Gates arrest

By JESSE WASHINGTON (AP) – 1 day ago

Henry Louis Gates Jr. felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as he looked across the threshold of his home at Sgt. James Crowley. Looking back at Gates, Crowley worried about making it home safely to his wife and three children.

Fear was the only thing the white police officer and black scholar had in common. Soon their many differences would collide, exploding into a colossal misunderstanding.

How could things go so wrong? How could two by all accounts decent men start a fire that drew comparisons to the O.J. Simpson case and knocked President Barack Obama off his racial tightrope?

Part of the answer lies in the truth seen through each man's eyes during the episode, which ended with one of the most influential men in America charged with disorderly conduct.

If this really is to become a "teachable moment," as Obama hopes, then we have to examine what they saw, according to their public statements — and why they saw it that way.


It's early afternoon on Ware Street in Cambridge, Mass., a few blocks from the campus of Harvard University. Gates and his car service driver, a large black man, are trying to force open Gates' jammed front door. Lucia Whalen, a 40-year-old white woman who works up the street at the Harvard alumni magazine, is passing by and calls 911.

According to Crowley's police report, he arrived to find Whalen standing on the sidewalk in front of the home. She told Crowley that "she observed what appeared to be two black men with backpacks on the porch ... her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door," the report says.

No one is blaming Whalen, who has not spoken publicly since the story broke.

"It wasn't her fault," Gates said.

We don't know how she sees the world, what types of experiences color her vision.

But had she shared just one or two different details with Crowley — or if the sergeant had gleaned something else from their conversation — things might have happened differently.

Gates, 58 and gray-haired, says he was dressed in a blazer and walking with a cane. He says his driver was wearing a black suit jacket and matching pants. After they forced open the door, Gates says, the driver carried Gates' luggage into the house, then drove off in the vehicle.

None of that was on Crowley's mind when he walked up the steps to Gates home.

"Witnesses are inherently reliable," he said later. "She told me what she saw."


Crowley is on the porch, alone; Gates is inside his home. They apparently notice each other through the front door window at about the same time.

Crowley sees the unknown: "I really wasn't sure exactly what I was dealing with," he said later.

The sergeant is 42, a decorated 11-year police veteran who grew up attending diverse public schools in Cambridge. All three of his brothers work in law enforcement. He's an instructor in a police academy class on how to avoid racial profiling.

He asks Gates to step outside.

"I was the only police officer standing there and I got a report that there was people breaking into a house. (The request) was for my safety, because first and foremost I have to go home at night, I have three beautiful children and a wife who depend on me," he said later.

"So I had no other motive other than to ensure my safety, because this gentleman either could have been one of the people breaking in, or he could have been the homeowner who was unaware that there were people in his house unauthorized. I just didn't know."

Gates, meanwhile, is a renowned scholar of black history who has spent most of his life literally cataloguing the sins of the past in volumes like "Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience."

"I know every incident in the history of racism from slavery to Jim Crow segregation," he said recently.

He knows some of it firsthand. About 1989, hired by Stanley Fish to teach at Duke University in Durham, N.C., "one of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town," Fish wrote in a recent blog on The New York Times' Web site.

"During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house's owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake."

"The message was unmistakable: What was a black man doing living in a place like this?" Fish wrote.

So when Gates hears Crowley ask him to step outside, he sees history. How could he not?

"All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger," Gates said later. "And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, 'No, I will not.'"


Crowley asks Gates to prove he lives there.

Looking out his front door, Gates sees someone who should be asking, "Is everything all right, sir?" He sees someone who would not doubt that a 58-year-old, gray-haired Harvard professor lived in this home — if he were white.

Gates sees a racist.

Gates leaves the front door to get his identification. Crowley follows him inside. Gates says he provided a driver's license with the address of the home they were standing in; Crowley's police report only mentions a Harvard ID.

"Now it's clear that he had a narrative in his head," Gates said. "A black man was inside someone's house, probably a white person's house, and this black man had broken and entered, and this black man was me."

Gates demands that the sergeant provide HIS identification.

Crowley sees someone who should be grateful, but instead is yelling and falsely accusing him of being a racist. He sees a problem — "something you wouldn't expect from anybody that should be grateful that you're there investigating a report of a crime in progress," he said.

Neither man understood what the other one saw.


Gates continues to demand that Crowley provide his name and badge number.

Crowley said in his report that he had already told Gates his name, twice, but Gates was yelling too much to hear him. Gates said Crowley ignored his demands.

Gates doesn't let up. Crowley says he'll talk to Gates outside. Then he says something Crowley understands perfectly, boiling down his 2,095 pages of "Africana" down into one cry of resistance:

"I'll speak with your mama outside," he said, according to the police report.

Gates denies making the remark.

Should Gates have realized that you can't antagonize the police? Should Crowley have understood what it means to suspect a black man of breaking into his own home? Arguments will persist for years.

Once he recovered his balance, backing off his statement that Crowley acted "stupidly," Obama assumed his traditional position of racial referee and said that both men overreacted.

"My hope," the first black president continued, "is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a teachable moment, where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other ... and that instead of flinging accusations, we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009

Site for Blacks Attracts Slurs After Arrest of Professor

Published: July 26, 2009

It was probably inevitable that in the furor over the arrest of the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., some people would resort publicly to the ugly racial slurs that have largely disappeared from polite conversation.

But it is hard to imagine a more incongruous place for such comments than The Root, an online magazine of politics and culture largely by and for black people, where Mr. Gates is editor in chief.

Yet there they were last week, in comments on an interview with Dr. Gates, who was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass., on a disorderly conduct charge that was quickly dropped.

A few commenters used grotesque racial epithets, others crudely parodied black speech, and some proudly called themselves racist. One used the screen name of James Earl Ray, the man who killed Martin Luther King Jr.

Those probably should have been removed, said Terence W. Samuel, deputy editor of The Root, but he added that worse comments had been taken down.

“For the most part, as long as the comments are not threats of violence, and the most vicious, nasty, racist comments, we leave them up,” he said.

Comment sections have become double-edged for many publications: they encourage community and reader involvement, but they also allow offensive speech to seep in. Some publications do not allow comments online, or block them for articles on certain heated topics. Screening comments for offensive speech is a commitment of labor that most sites cannot afford.

The Root, owned by The Washington Post Company, takes a common middle ground, allowing readers to publish comments instantly, and later removing some that prompt complaints.

“We end up, because of the nature of our site, talking about some pretty intense stuff,” Mr. Samuel said.

The Gates affair generated heavy traffic and thousands of comments, so it took longer than usual to sift through complaints.

“But we’ve invited this conversation,” Mr. Samuel said, “and nine out of 10 days, it’s a great conversation to be having.” RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
Police Release Audio in Gates Case -

JULY 28, 2009
Police Release Audio in Gates Case


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The woman who called police to the house of African-American studies scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. told a dispatcher she was unsure whether a break-in was in progress and couldn't specify the race of the men trying to force open the front door.

The woman, identified in a police report as Lucia Whalen, told police an elderly woman who lived on the street had stopped her to say she was "concerned" about a possible break-in. "I don't know if they live there or they just had a hard time with their key," Ms. Whalen said, according to a copy of her 911 call released by Cambridge police Monday. Ms. Whalen never mentioned race until asked by the dispatcher. Then she said "one looked kind of Hispanic, but I'm not really sure."

Cambridge police released recordings of the incident after a week of debate over Mr. Gates's July 16 arrest by Sgt. James Crowley on a disorderly conduct charge. The charge was dropped last week.

Mr. Crowley, who is white, and Mr. Gates have accused each other of acting inappropriately. Mr. Crowley said he arrested Mr. Gates after he called the police officer a racist, yelling so loudly the officer couldn't conduct an investigation. Mr. Gates has called Mr. Crowley a "rogue" policeman who acted out of racial bias.

The incident prompted President Barack Obama to first accuse the Cambridge police of behaving "stupidly," and then to back off, calling Mr. Gates and Mr. Crowley in an attempt to defuse the situation. The three men will meet at the White House Thursday evening for a beer, a White House official said late Monday night.

The 911 call makes clear that Ms. Whalen saw suitcases, making her wonder whether the men trying to enter the home lived there. In his report, Mr. Crowley wrote that Ms. Whalen observed two black men with backpacks trying to enter the home. Wendy Murphy, Ms. Whalen's attorney, said her client never described the two males as black nor said they had backpacks. A Cambridge police spokesman had no comment on the apparent discrepancy.

Delores Jones-Brown, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said Ms. Whalen took a "measured and sensible" tone in her call, and made it clear race wasn't a factor in her call. The officers' response is the key factor in determining whether any unwarranted racial profiling took place, she said.

Ms. Murphy said her client has received threats from those who believe her actions were motivated by race, but "feels that she did the right thing" and doesn't have "any regrets about how she reported what she saw."

United Press International
Police Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer in the
Gates case, at a news conference last week in
Cambridge, Mass.

In a second audiotape, of radio transmissions between Mr. Crowley and the dispatcher, the officer can be heard speaking in calm, measured tones. At one point, he describes Mr. Gates as uncooperative and tells the dispatcher to "keep the cars coming."

On at least two occasions, a voice is heard in the background. It is unclear whether it belongs to Mr. Gates or what the person is saying. Mr. Gates, a renowned Harvard University professor, didn't return calls for comment.

Cambridge police said Mr. Crowley hasn't reviewed the tapes and wouldn't comment on them. A department spokesman said the tapes show there was "no question" police should have been on the scene.

Mr. Gates said he had returned from a trip to China, and he and a driver were having trouble opening his jammed front door.

Meanwhile, the controversy brought attention to the finances of a non-profit cultural organization Mr. Gates founded and leads.

Mr. Gates is revising 2007 tax returns of the Inkwell Foundation after questions were raised about the characterization of $11,000 paid to two foundation officers.

The organization's 2007 Form 990 states that the money was awarded as research grants to the officers, both of whom are listed on Harvard's Web site as employees of the school's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, which Mr. Gates directs. According to the form, the grants were given to 23 individuals to "research African and African-American literature, art, history and culture," several of whom are professors. A total of $27,500 were given out in grants, most of which were worth $500.

Mr. Gates didn't immediately respond to requests to comment on the matter.

Mr. Gates told nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica on Monday that the grants to the two foundation officers should have been listed as compensation for their administrative work for the organization.

Mr. Gates plans to file an amended 2007 report to the IRS to correct the mischaractarization.

The organization was founded in 2005. The form, which Mr. Gates signed, notes 17 Ware Street, Mr. Gates's home in Cambridge, as the physical address. It also shows that the the foundation raised $205,543 in total revenue in 2007, and spent $27,600.

The Inkwell Foundation provides grants to other charitable groups and promotes "programs that educate the general public and encourage academic interest" related to African and African-American culture, according to the form.

Joanne Kendall, who received $10,000, the largest grant, is named on a Harvard web site as assistant to Gates. Another grant, for $1,000, was given to Abby Wolf, who also works in the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

The second largest grant, of $6,000, was awarded to Angela DeLeon, according to ProPublica.

Several of the people who received research grants from the foundation have ties to Harvard. Another officer of the organization, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, received a grant of $500. Ms. Higginbotham is the chairwoman of the African and African-American studies department at Harvard.

Changing the characterization of the payments to the officers means that administrative costs make up nearly 40% of the foundation's expenses.

—Jonathan Weisman contributed to this article.

Write to Simmi Aujla at [email protected]


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: Beer diplomacy: Obama aims for calm and comity

Beer diplomacy: Obama aims for calm and comity

By BEN FELLER (AP) – 29 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — Three guys, sitting around a picnic table, having a cold one. Beer diplomacy? The "teachable moment" the president promised? Or just a way for the White House to get people to quit talking about the president's comments on a racial brouhaha in Massachusetts?

When Barack Obama meets Thursday with the black professor and white policeman at the center of a national uproar over race relations, he is aiming for a show that will get positive news coverage and then go away.

"There's no formal agenda other than cold beer," press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

That's not quite the teachable moment on racial unity that Obama talked about last Friday when he moved to undercut the controversy that had knocked him off message. Pressed about that, Gibbs said Obama never promised to solve everything with one meeting, and that doing so is not entirely the president's job anyway.

The broader point: The White House wants to show Obama as a reconciliatory force and then try to get people focused back on his plans for health care overhaul.

By now, most people know the backstory: Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard scholar, was arrested after police responded to a report of a possible break-in at his home in Cambridge. They found no burglars, but Sgt. James Crowley took Gates into custody, accusing him of disorderly conduct in his protesting of police behavior. The charge was soon dropped.

Then Obama inflamed matters by saying the police had "acted stupidly," though he conceded he didn't know all the facts about the case and was a little biased anyway because Gates was a friend.

Once the story began pushing all other news to the margins, Obama acknowledged he could have chosen his words better. And he invited both men for a beer.

To be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, the event will offer upbeat footage for the nightly news. A pool of White House reporters will be able to see the men together and capture that image, but the meeting itself will be private.

"I think it'll be a poignant moment," Gibbs said.

Unclear is whether the president, the professor or the policeman will make any public comments — the kind that could allow people to fairly judge whether any genuine progress was made, particularly between Gates and Crowley, who continue to stand by their actions in the episode.

It amounts to classic White House intervention, said Kevin Sullivan, former communications director for President George W. Bush. With little risk.

"Given what I know about Dr. Gates and what I've heard about Sgt. Crowley, I think there's zero chance that either one of them would come to the White House at the invitation of the president and embarrass him in any way," said Sullivan, who now runs his own communications company.

The more quickly an administration can deal with whatever crisis has knocked it off stride — particularly one it helped create — the faster it can get back to emphasizing what it wants to talk about.

To help things along, the White House is throwing in an everyman factor. It's called drinking beer, which has remained steady for Americans during the recession.

Polls showed Bush was the guy people wanted to have a beer with when he ran against Al Gore and John Kerry. But Obama, not Republican rival John McCain, won that vote among people polled in 2008.

Now he's found at least two people to have a beer with him — on camera — although turning down the president isn't a likely option.

The emphasis on the beer-drinking part of the deal hasn't thrilled drug prevention advocates, but there has been no outcry about it either.

For Gates, the White House visit will be a return encounter. He spent time interviewing Bush last year for a documentary on Abraham Lincoln.

The teetotaling Bush told him: "People say, 'Have you seen Lincoln's ghost?' I say, 'Well, I quit drinking in 1986, so I haven't seen the ghost. But his presence is felt all throughout the house.'"

And what of the deeper racial questions that have been raised?

"The unfortunate part is that the teachable moment has already occurred," said Cedric Herring, who directs the Race and Public Policy program at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs. "The whole thing about race rearing its head, the fact that it became an explosive story, the charges of racial profiling — that's actually the moment. It teaches us that we are not beyond race."

And the meeting? He said, "I don't think it will be a historical moment for race relations or anything like that."

AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this story.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: Analysis: Obama must regain momentum after Gates

Analysis: Obama must regain momentum after Gates

By JENNIFER LOVEN (AP) – 5 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The success of President Barack Obama's ambitious agenda — from health care and climate change to education — could depend on how quickly he recovers from the sharp drop in support among white voters after criticizing a white policeman's arrest of a black Harvard scholar.

Obama's widely publicized effort to defuse the first racial flare-up of his young presidency by inviting the protagonists to the White House last week for beers and conversation ended well by most accounts, even though there were no apologies.

Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. Joseph Crowley and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. agreed to disagree about the July 16 confrontation at Gates' home and pledged to meet again.

Obama's impromptu comments about the incident could become a defining moment. Nearly immediately after Obama's remark that police had "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates, his approval rating plummeted among whites, dropping over two days from 53 percent to 46 percent in a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

If Obama is to have success with the policy changes he wants, he can't afford to shed white support. Not to mention the disaster that losing the affections of many in the blue-collar, Reagan Democrat constituency would spell for any re-election campaign.

Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said he was stunned at how poorly Obama, normally so controlled, handled what Jacobs called "the first major personal debacle for the president."

"This thing was just hung around his neck and he couldn't get rid of it," Jacobs said. "I think he presumed too much. He really started to believe his own press releases on post-racial America."

Chris Lehane, a Democratic operative in California and a former aide to Al Gore, said Obama prolonged the story by arranging the White House meeting, but was smart to do so because it fits into another narrative that Obama promotes: that he's a "different kind of president."

"The politically smart move would have been to call the officer, tell the press, not ask for a meeting and pivot back to health care at a time when the White House needs to regain its momentum," Lehane said, "while the riskier courageous leader position was to hold the suds summit."

Greg Strimple, a Republican strategist in New York who advised Sen. John McCain, Obama's GOP opponent last year, saw Obama's initial words at the news conference as a calculated play to win points with his base — and it backfired.

"He's lost the center on economic issues," he said, citing the big-government label Obama is earning for the massive stimulus package and his health care and energy proposals. "When politicians get in trouble, they always revert to audiences that will clap and cheer the loudest for them. ... But they had a fundamental miscalculation on the political strategy of this."

Regardless how he got himself in the fix, Obama must move on from the national debate the incident prompted.

"The most important thing for Obama is to move on to nonracial topics — health care, for instance," Jacobs said. "The loss of white support is potentially devastating but it is unclear how sustained it will be, especially if he can enact his legislation."

Robert Shapiro, a Columbia University political science professor, noted that whites are more likely to be Republicans and independents than Democrats, and that poll numbers, even on a specific question, are almost never pure.

"I think here any decline in his poll numbers have more to do with the economy, health care, and issues other than the Gates arrest," he said. "His ability to recover has to be looked at in the longer term, which will hinge on the economy most of all, then other issues like Iraq/Afghanistan, health care, energy/the environment."

Obama also could benefit from the fact that Congress is heading into its August recess. Pending health care overhaul legislation — and the still-limping economy — will be the talk of their towns as lawmakers spend the month in their districts. Recesses have a magic way of changing the subject and, by fall, when Capitol Hill comes alive again, it is not unusual for the hot topic of July to be only a distant memory.

EDITOR'S NOTE _ Jennifer Loven is the AP's chief White House correspondent.


New Member
Mar 22, 2009
The Associated Press: Gates racial drama ensnares minor characters, too

Gates racial drama ensnares minor characters, too

By STEVE LeBLANC (AP) – 6 hours ago

BOSTON — They weren't invited to the Rose Garden to hoist beers with President Barack Obama, yet their lives have been turned upside-down by the encounter between a black Harvard scholar and a white Cambridge, Mass., police officer.

By chance or their own doing, these peripheral players got caught up in the July 16 arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct in his home by police Sgt. James Crowley, who was investigating a burglary. They include:

_ The 911 caller who said she lived in fear for her safety for days after being labeled a racist because the police said she described the possible burglars as "black men with backpacks" when tapes show she had not.

_ The black sergeant who was at the house during the arrest and says he's been assailed as an "Uncle Tom" for standing up for his fellow officer.

_ A Boston police officer and National Guardsman who now faces termination and has been suspended from the Guard after referring to Gates with a racial epithet in a letter to a newspaper and fellow Guardsmen.

_ The New York City political aide who has resigned after her Facebook posts calling Gates a racist and Obama dumb drew criticism.

The tendency to caricature even peripheral characters in highly polarizing episodes is part of a modern media environment with its 24-hour news cycle and limitless online forums, according to Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

"It's one thing to do that about a politician who willingly throws themselves into the situation," Zelizer added. "It's something else to do that about someone who is just trying to make a report or the police officer who just happened to respond."

Perhaps no one was more jolted by the fallout than Lucia Whalen, 40, the Harvard employee who first called police to alert them about a possible break-in at Gates' home.

"Lucia Whalen goes down in history as the woman who showed the world that racism is alive in America today," one blogger wrote on the Jambo Blog Network.

Yet tapes show Whalen never mentioned race in her 911 call. When pressed by a dispatcher, Whalen, a Portuguese-American, said one might be Hispanic. She even raised the possibility they might just be having difficulty opening the door.

Whalen's attorney Wendy Murphy said Whalen's initial, measured response to the situation could be a lesson to those who pointed fingers and dropped insults.

"If what she said and how she said it had been respected and valued, nothing of what followed would have happened," Murphy said. "She was the accidental exemplary citizen."

Also at the arrest scene was Cambridge Sgt. Leon Lashley, a black police officer who was put on the defensive. Lashley said he's been maligned as having "betrayed my heritage" for defending Crowley's actions.

"I have also become known, at least to some, as an 'Uncle Tom,'" Lashley said in a letter he asked Crowley to give to President Barack Obama. CNN also received a copy of the letter.

Lashley said he's been targeted simply for "speaking the truth and coming to the defense of a friend and colleague, who just happens to be white."

Unlike Whalen and Lashley, others dove into the drama on their own and stoked racial tensions.

Officer Justin Barrett, a two-year Boston Police Department veteran, repeatedly used a crude racial slur to describe Gates in an e-mail sent to The Boston Globe and later forwarded to guardsmen and police officers.

Barrett also wrote in the e-mail that if he were the officer sent to Gates' home, he "would have sprayed him in the face with OC (pepper spray) deserving of his belligerent non-compliance."

Barrett has apologized for what he called "a poor choice of words" and denied being a racist.

Police Commissioner Edward Davis said he wouldn't tolerate Barrett's "venomous rhetoric" and placed him on administrative leave, pending a termination hearing. Barrett is a captain in the Massachusetts National Guard, which also suspended him pending an investigation. In New York, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a Democrat, accepted the resignation of deputy press secretary Lee Landor after she called Gates a racist and referred to President Barack Obama as "O-dumb-a" on the social networking site Facebook.

Landor defended her entries, but added: "It is understandable that a black man encountering police will be suspicious of racial profiling."

President Obama has called the Gates' arrest a "teachable" moment and there have been attempts to calm tensions.

On Friday, Gates sent flowers to Whalen, in what Murphy described as "a gesture of gratitude."

"She was very touched," Murphy said. "She appreciated it."

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