Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation's pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.
Police arrived at Gates's Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.
He was booked for disorderly conduct after "exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior," according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had "no idea who he was messing with,'' the report said.
Gates told the officer that he was being targeted because "I'm a black man in America.''
Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver's license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.
Gates, 58, did not return calls for comment today.
The arrest of such a prominent scholar under what some described as dubious circumstances shook some members of the black Harvard community.
So he was trying to get into his own home? A black man fiddling with a lock in Cambridge is immediate cause for suspicion? He was disorderly because he was (deservedly) ticked off? Shaking my head, people… shaking my head. Comment as you will…
Dr. Gates has issued a statement of his version of events. Whole thing still looks suspect on the police end but we'll see how it plays out.
Update as of July 21, 2009 - ALL CHARGES DROPPED. Um-hmm, that's what we thought.