Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., University professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies at Harvard, has been arrested while trying to break into his own house. A concerned neighbor called police when she saw Gates, 58, “wedging his shoulder in the front door [of Gates’ house] as to pry the door open.” Police say that he refused to give them his name, accused them of racism, and continued a loud altercation from his porch until his arrest for “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior.”
Police report that when an officer arrived at the scene, Gates became belligerent and allegedly shouted “[t]his is what happens to black men in America” when asked for identification. He also allegedly told the police repeatedly that “[y]ou don’t know who your [sic] messing with,” according to the report.
The Cambridge Police Department maintains that Gates created such a commotion on his porch that he drew a crowd.
Harvard Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. appears to have agreed to represent him — though these types of disorderly conduct charges are routinely dropped when they do not involve alcohol or drugs or property damage. This is not a major offense — Gates was released on a $40 bond.
Gates was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 1981 and was named one of Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” in 1997.
The Cambridge Police entry merely states “On 7/16/09 at 12:44 PM, 58-year-old Henry Gates of 17 Ware St. Cambridge, MA was arrested for Disorderly conduct after exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior.”
Gates (who had just returned from China) has denied the police account, here. Ogletree says that Gates found his door damaged when he returned from China and entered through the back door. He and his driver then forced open the front door and brought his luggage in the house, according to Ogletree. Police state that when they arrived he was in his office and initially refused to come out and accused them of racism.
Rev. Al Sharpton has already descended on the scene to allege racism in the force and denounce the crime of living in a house while black.
UPDATE: As expected in the above blog, the charges have been dropped.
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