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Charge Dropped Against Black Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates

This article is more than 10 years old.
This booking photo released by the Cambridge Police Dept. shows Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was arrested while trying to force open the locked front door of his home.
This booking photo released by the Cambridge Police Dept. shows Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was arrested while trying to force open the locked front door of his home.

Prosecutors have dropped a disorderly conduct charge against prominent black Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was arrested at his home after a reported break-in.

The city of Cambridge issued a statement Tuesday saying the arrest "was regrettable and unfortunate." The statement said the police and Gates agreed 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.

Still, Gates insisted on an apology for the arrest, which he said was motivated by racism.

"There are 1 million black men in jail in this country, and last Thursday I was one of them," Gates told The Washington Post on Tuesday. "This is outrageous and that this is how poor black men across the country are treated every day in the criminal justice system. It's one thing to write about it, but altogether another to experience it."

He also said he wanted an apology from the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, who has not responded to a request for an interview from The Associated Press.

Gates did not respond to an AP request for an interview Tuesday, and his lawyer, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, did not return a request to comment on the charge being dropped.

Supporters say Gates - the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research - was immediately considered a suspect because officers were summoned to the house by a woman who said she saw "two black males with backpacks on the porch," one of whom was "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry," according to a police report.

Gates has said he returned home from a weekslong trip to China, found his door jammed and asked his driver to help him get it open.

When the officers arrived at the house, which Gates rents from Harvard, Gates was already inside and on the phone with the real estate company that manages the property. He had come in through the back door and shut off the alarm, he said.

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 that 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 onto the front porch as he left his house and was arrested there.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he was unsatisfied with the resolution.

"The charges have been dropped, but the stain remains. ... Humiliation remains," Jackson said. "These incidents are so much of a national pattern on race."

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. In 1997, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans.

This program aired on July 21, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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