Witnesses talk about Henry Louis Gates’ arrest

african kings


The arrest of one of America’s most prominent black scholars is raising questions of racial profiling.

It started with a call of a possible break-in at a home near Harvard University.

“As I was about to walk up the street I looked back and saw multiple police cars facing each other in the middle of the street, and a lot of activity down here,” says witness Lawrence Neeley.

That’s how neighbors describe the ruckus last Thursday afternoon at the Cambridge, Massachusetts home of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the nation’s most prominent African-American scholars.

Now the 58-year-old Gates has a police mug shot after being arrested, fingerprinted, and booked for alleged disorderly conduct.

“And all I heard was them saying there was a potential break-in and that someone had seen something out here,” says a neighbor.

According to the police report, Cambridge police were responding to a break-in at Gates’ house.

But apparently, it was Gates who was breaking into his own home, as he had trouble unlocking a jammed door.

The situation escalated, police say Gates was exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior.

The report also says Gates was calling the police racist and shouting, “This is what happens to black men in America” to a small crowd that had gathered on the sidewalk.

Neighbors were stunned at the spectacle.

“I feel very badly, he’s a distinguished scholar and an important guy and somebody highly respected in both the academic community and I think in our community. You know, and I think it was a terrible misunderstanding,” says neighbor Michael Schaffer.

“If a Harvard professor is arrested breaking in to his own home it has a certain comical aspect. On the other hand, as, you know, a person of color, one has to wonder if he was treated as any other Harvard professor might have been,” observes another neighbor, Christopher Robinson.

Gates referred comment to his lawyer, who emphasizes Gates and a driver had trouble opening the door because it was jammed.

He says Gates gave the officer his driver’s license and Harvard identification, then became upset when the officer continued to question him.

The Cambridge Police Department is not commenting. Gates is scheduled for arraignment on the disorderly conduct charge August 26th.