Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,is arrested in his own home in Cambridge by police, who then accuse him of “loud and tumultuous behavior.” Let’s see — if the police were arresting me in my own house — for breaking and entering into my own house — I might become both loud and tumultuous. Word fail when you read stories like this. I’m sure Pat Buchanan will be on television tomorrow arguing that it wasn’t, in fact, Gates’ house.
bet he did exhibit “loud and tumultuous behavior.” I likely would too. Actually, I wouldn’t. But I don’t work for Harvard. And my mother taught me how black men are to address the police.
So if you’re going to be a pedestrian who mistakenly calls the cops because you see a black man trying to pry open the jammed door to his own home, and if you’re going to be the responding cop who then questions said black man for possibly burglarizing his own home, then arrests said black man for subsequently taking offense and getting uppity with you, both of you should probably make sure said black man is not Henry Louis Gates, the famed Harvard professor of African-American Studies.
Skip Gates is 60 years old and can’t walk WITHOUT A CANE.
Yeah, he’s a threat to you and me, y’all. I feel soooo much safer knowing that he was taken off the streets.
Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:
I’m generally a fan of Gates and a lot is still unknown. But at minimum, I think it’s interesting how the Globe’s coverage is immediately and almost entirely about the alleged racial angle. If I were the arresting officer, I might wonder why my version of events deserves so much less credulity. Then again, I might not.
Lots of e-mail has come in since last night when I posted about Henry Louis Gates’s arrest. The responses from readers are interesting in that they reflect a divide running through conservatives I’ve noticed before. About half the readers think Gates is hilariously in the wrong. The other half, give or take, think that the cop was transparently to blame for the whole mess. That’s a gross generalization of several dozen e-mails, but I think it reflects how conservatives, like Americans generally, are of two views when it comes to cops. One side is inclined to distrust them, see them as potential abusers of authority — mere men with badges and guns. Another side is deferential to police. That is not to say they condone abuse or sanction cops being above the law. But they give cops the benefit of the doubt for a host of reasons.
[…] I don’t think this divide is unique to conservatives. As I say, I think it runs straight through the American, and, no doubt, human heart. But it’s interesting in this context because I think conservatives are expected to be far more deferential to law enforcement. And, when I read the Gates police report, I immediately sympathized with the cop who had to deal with a very high-status guy trying to bully the cop in part by accusing him — unfairly, by my lights — of racism. It’s very interesting to read lots of conservatives offer good faith disagreements.
FWIW, even if the cops’ story is 100% accurate, I don’t see what the point of arresting Gates was. Yelling at a cop isn’t a crime, Gates clearly posed no threat to anyone, and the cop should have either used his training to defuse the situation or just walked away–he already knew that Gates wasn’t a burglar, which was the original reason for the cops’ presence.]
UPDATE: Personally, whenever I encounter cops in a potentially adversarial situation, e.g., during a traffic stop, I become absurdly obsequious, precisely because I know they have the power to arbitrarily arrest me if I piss them off. Law professor or not, the power dynamics in a confrontation with cops is not in your favor.
To steal a line that Adam Serwer tweeted, Ross picked a great day to write about the post-racial America on the horizon. This will teach one of the most distinguished American scholars of his era to act all uppity and shit to a police officer who recognizes he’s no threat in his own house.
Toure in the Daily Beast:
This is surely not over—there’s a gulf between those two accounts wide enough to drive a Hummer through. And many questions are left unanswered: Why did Gates’ neighbor, who works at Harvard magazine, fail to recognize him? When the Harvard University Police showed up, couldn’t they have realized what was happening and whose home it was and found another way to resolve all this? And most important, why did the officers find it necessary to arrest a man who was in his own home and who had not posed or made a threat to them? The worst crime in the police report is Gates yelling at an officer who was telling him to calm down. Is that a crime?
UPDATE: Charges dropped, apparently.
UPDATE #2: John McWhorter
Roger Clegg in National Review
Will at the League on Clegg
UPDATE #3: Lots of commentary after that press conference last night:
At The Corner
At TPM, Josh Marshall
UPDATE #4: Legal Insurrection
UPDATE #5: Ed Morrissey
Michael C. Moynihan in Reason
Jacob Sullum in Reason
Jack Dunphy in National Review
UPDATE #6: Richard Thompson Gates in Slate
Jack Dunphy again
Maureen Dowd in NYT
Brandon del Pozo via Henry Farrell
UPDATE #7: Radley Balko in Reason
Christopher Hitchens in Slate
UPDATE #8: Ed Morrissey
Dustin Siggins at New Majority
UPDATE #9: Hamilton Nolan at Gawker
UPDATE #10: Mark Kleiman at Ta-Nehisi’s place