Professor Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard Black Scholar Arrested at his Home

By Eric Brown

Proff Gates
AP Photo

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., best known for his work in African-American ancestral research, was arrested last week by Cambridge, Mass., police on his own front porch. The police arrested the professor after another Harvard University employee reported to police that two black males with back packs were at the front porch of Gates’s porch and that one appeared to try to force an entry.

Professor Gates who had to use the back door to turn off the alarm and open the front door was confronted by police who proceeded to arrest him. Cambridge, Massachusetts police arrested Professor Gates in spite of having produced his identification as a Harvard professor. According to the officer at the scene, the arrest was a result of Gates having “exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior”.

One of only  20 faculty members with the honor of being “University Professors”, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 58, is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. His court date was set for August 26 and the Rev. Al  Sharpton plans to attend.

It is one thing that the neighbor called the police to alarm them of a possible burglary or some other criminal activity at Gates’s home. It is also common that the alarm would go off when you get back home from a trip as Professor Gates was returning home from a trip to China. However, the police’s arrest is difficult to explain. It will be interesting to understand what exactly was meant by “loud and tumultuous behavior” that warranted arrest. In all likelihood, this charge will be dismissed as it seems like a case of incompetence by the arresting officer.

2 responses to “Professor Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard Black Scholar Arrested at his Home

  1. I hope none of the charges are dropped and this goes to court, so the police have to explain their behavior. How hard could it be with computers in their cars to see if he was whom he claimed to be?

    Am I the only one who is left wondering if this can happen to Professor Gates? I hope President Obama is careful if he goes out without secret service for a hamburger and forgets his White House keys.

  2. A while back I was faced with the identical situation that Professor Gates encountered. In trying to get thru a window of my own home, an officer stopped in front of my home and demanded identification when I told him I lived there. I became quite upset with the officer. He then reminded me that I had an obligation to comply with his request, or I would be taken in for questioning. Quickly assessing the situation, I determined it best to comply. However, I am white, and female. I think at some point in these kinds of scenarios, a little common sense goes a long ways, both the officer and Professor Gates seemingly appear to have demonstrated some agendas in this encounter that perhaps should have been avoided by both. IT probably would have ended then and there, with a little cooperation on both sides.

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