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Gates Wants an Apology, Sgt. Crowley Absolutely Won’t, and Obama Says Cambridge Police ‘Acted Stupidly’

Thu July 23 2009 3:57 pm
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Henry Louis Gates
Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Gates has demanded an apology from Sgt. James Crowley, who had responded to the home near Harvard University to investigate a report of a burglary-in-progress and demanded the scholar show him identification. Police say the 58-year-old at first refused and then accused the officer of racism.

Gates said Crowley walked into his home without his permission and only arrested him as the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant’s name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.

Cambridge Police Department allegations
Incident Supplement:
for arrest for disorderly conduct on July 16, 2009.

"No will not" (alleged, police report after being asked to present identification)

"this is what happens to black men in America" (alleged, police report)

"You don’t know who you (Crowley) are messing with” (alleged, police report)

See Cambridge Police Department report …




Gates, 58, a world-renowned scholar and documentary filmmaker on black history, allegedly belligerently ranted to police at his Ware Street home

  James Crowley
Sgt. James Crowley

There will be no apology.

I’m disapponted (at the attention of this case).

Crowley noted in his report that he radioed police headquarters to let them know he was with the person who appeared to be the home’s lawful resident, but who was “very uncooperative.” (WEEI radio interview).

“One of my first transmissions was to slow the units down and I’m in the residence with somebody I believe resides here, but he’s being very uncooperative. So, that’s in real time,” Crowley told the WEEI sports-talk hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan.

Upon receiving Gates’ Harvard ID, Crowley wrote he radioed in to request “the presence of the Harvard University Police.” (WEEI radio interview).

"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," Crowley said, according to the report. (CNN report)

Police Report Highlights
Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch," with one "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry into the home."

By the time police arrived, Gates — the 58-year-old director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and one of the "two black males" — was inside the house, which he leases from Harvard. Gates had just returned from a trip to China and found the front door jammed and entered through the rear of the house. The police report says that he initially declined to come outside and show an officer his identification, allegedly saying, "Why, because I’m a black man in America?"

While on the porch "the gentleman refused to be cooperative and continued shouting that the Sgt. is racist police officer.

On Thursday July 16, 2009, Henry Gates, Jr. …Ware Street, Cambridge, MA … was placed under arrest at … Ware Street, after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultous behavior, in a public lace directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on the behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.



Henry Louis Gates
Pres. Barack Obama

"I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend"

"I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry," Obama said. "Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And number three – what I think we know separate and apart from this incident – is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that’s just a fact."

"The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting someone when there was already."

Obama said federal officials need to continue working with local law enforcement "to improve policing techniques so that we’re eliminating potential bias."

"Race remains a factor in this society."

"This still haunts us."

On Thursday White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Obama did not regret the remark, but wanted to clarify that he was not calling the arresting officer stupid.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Obama felt "cooler heads on all sides should have prevailed" once the officer realized Gates was in his own home.


Video of Barack Obama’s “Cambridge police acted stupidly” comment at Presidential News Conference on Health Care.

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