For 'stupidly' arresting black Harvard scholar:
Obama slams police
US: President Barack Obama stepped full throttle into the divisive
issue of US race relations Wednesday when he accused police of acting
"stupidly" in arresting a black Harvard scholar.
Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have already apologized to
eminent African-American Professor Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested
after having to break into his own home because of a faulty door late
"Now, I don't know, not having been there, and not seeing all the
facts, what role race played in this," Obama told a prime-time press
conference, when asked about his reaction to the highly-publicized
incident. "But, I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be
pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in
arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their
Gates, 58, a leading expert on African-American studies and an Obama
friend, had been seen by a passing woman attempting to get into his
Cambridge house along with another black man, according to the police
report from July 16.
The woman alerted the police, and by the time a uniformed officer
arrived Gates was inside his home and reporting the faulty door to the
Harvard Real Estate office.
The other man at the scene was Gates's hired driver, who was helping
the professor push the door open.
In his first televised interview since the arrest, Gates told CNN
late Wednesday he might bring a lawsuit against the Cambridge police
because, he explained, "this is not about me. This is about the
vulnerability of black men in America."
"This is my house. I'm a Harvard professor. I live here," Gates said
he told the officer, who then asked for proof, which the professor
provided by showing his Harvard University identification card and his
driver's license. When Gates asked the officer for his name and badge,
he did not respond.
"He didn't say anything. I said, 'Why are you not responding to me?'"
"Are you not responding to me because you're a white police officer
and I'm a black man?"
But when Gates stepped outside at the officer's request, he was
handcuffed - first with his hands behind his back despite being
handicapped and requiring the use of a cane - arrested and spent four
hours in police custody before being released.
Seeing his own police mugshot was "terrifying," said Gates, who in
1997 was declared to be one of the 25 most influential people in the
United States by Time magazine.
"What it made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are, how
vulnerable all people of color are and all poor people to capricious
forces like a rogue policeman."
Despite his historic election as the country's first black president,
Obama has sought to steer clear of directly addressing issues of race.
And he joked initially that even he would be shot at if he tried to
break into the White House.
But turning serious, the US leader told reporters: "What I think we
know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long
history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped
by law enforcement disproportionately. Washington, Thursday, AFP