Here Is Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Statement On His Arrest
“There are one million black men in jail in this country and last Thursday I was one of them,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post Tuesday morning. “This is outrageous and that this is how poor black men across the country are treated everyday in the criminal justice system. It’s one thing to write about it, but altogether another to experience it.”
“I am appalled that any American could be treated as capriciously by an individual police officer. He should look into his soul and he should apologize to me,” Gates said. “If so, I will be prepared to forgive him. I think that poor people in general and black people in general are vulnerable to the whims of rogue cops, and we all have to fight to protect the weakest among us. No matter how bad it was going to get, I knew that sooner or later I would get to a phone and one of my friends would be there to help.”
His next project on race, he said, will be rooted in his arrest. “I hope to make a documentary about racial profiling for PBS,” he said. “[The idea] had never crossed my mind but it has now.”
He said the documentary will ask: “How are people treated when they are arrested? How does the criminal justice system work? How many black and brown men and poor white men are the victims of police officers who are carrying racist thoughts?
“I want to be a figure for prison reform. I think that criminal justice system is rotten.”
Prosecutors dropped a disorderly conduct charge Tuesday against prominent black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was arrested at his home near Harvard University after a report of a break-in.
The city of Cambridge issued a statement saying the arrest “was regrettable and unfortunate” and police and Gates agreed that dropping the charge was a just resolution.
“This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department,” the statement said.
Supporters say Gates — the director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research — was the victim of racial profiling.
Officers responded to the home Gates rents from Harvard after a woman reported seeing “two black males with backpacks on the porch,” with one “wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry,” according to a police report.
Gates’ lawyer, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, said the professor had returned from a trip overseas with a driver, found his front-door jammed and had to force it open. He was already inside, calling the company that manages the property, when police arrived.
Police said the 58-year-old Gates was arrested after he yelled at an officer, accused him of racial bias and refused to calm down after the officer demanded Gates show him identification to prove he lived in the home.
Ogletree said Gates showed his driver’s license and Harvard ID — both with his photos — and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was arrested.
Gates declined immediate comment Tuesday, and Ogletree did not immediately return a request to comment on the charge being dropped.
Gates joined the Harvard faculty in 1991 and holds one of 20 prestigious “university professors” positions at the school. He also was host of “African American Lives,” a PBS show about the family histories of prominent U.S. blacks, and was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997.