Gates ready to move on from arrest

July 25, 2009 8:57:19 PM PDT
Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates says too much attention has been taken away from Pres. Barack Obama's health care initiative and placed on his arrest last week.Gates says he is ready to move on and has accepted the president's invitation to have a beer at the White House with Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley.

Meanwhile, the debate generated by Gtes' arrest, and the president's initial reaction to it, continued Saturday. Signs left anonymously outside Professor Gates' home call him shameful and a racist and reveal just how divisive the incident is.

Gates said in a statement that he'd be happy to oblige President Obama's invitation to share a beer with Sergeant Crowley at the White House, a sign that the president's outreach may be having a calming effect. It's a 180-degree turn from the tensions of just days ago when Gates told Sirius radio that Crowley had mistreated him because he is black.

"He was hostile," Gates said on-air. "You could see it in his face, and you could hear it in his voice. I'd never been treated that way by the police, certainly not in my house in Harvard Square."

Cambridge police say Gates was yelling and out of control, and they arrested him for disorderly conduct.

"When a cop makes a decision to make an arrest on the street, he or she does not have the luxury of studying law books," said police union attorney Tom Drexler.

'Disorderly conduct' can encompass just about any disruptive behavior. Tom Nolan, a former Boston police officer for 27 years, says, by all accounts, the arrest was justified. Still, the charge has been dropped.

"The public needs to be assured that, at least in public places, the police are capable, they're competent and they can maintain order," said Nolan, who is now an associate professor at Boston University.

However, not all former law enforcers agree.

"You just can't arrest people because they're loud and yelling at you. [It] doesn't work that way," said Jon Shane, assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Professor Gates has vowed to make a documentary on his arrest to tie into a larger project about racial profiling.


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