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President Addresses Arrest of Harvard Professor

President Obama's last question at Wednesday night's news conference dealt with the arrest last week of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Obama was asked by Lynn Sweet, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, "What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?"

Here is Obama's reply:

Well, I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don't know all the facts.

What's been reported though is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house. There was a report called in to the police station that there might be a burglary taking place. So far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now, so... (laughter) ... it probably wouldn't happen. But let's say my old house in Chicago. (laughter) Here, I'd get shot.

I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. 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 own home; and, number three, 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. That's just a fact.

As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society.

That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us.

And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause.

And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques, so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be.

By Post Editor  |  July 22, 2009; 9:16 PM ET
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Can't we just get past the whole "race" thing? You'd think that after millenia of the same atavistic responses, we would have realised how futile and destructive and sometimes, just frankly, boring it all is!

I think what Obama was trying to say, in a somewhat longwinded manner, is that the fact that we are still so race conscious is in itself the trouble, and the sooner we get over it, the better.

Posted by: jumi1 | July 23, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Obama admits he's biased and doesn't know all the facts, yet, passes judgment anyway. This guy graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law school. Harvard's stature just plunged in my mind.

The Cambridge Police acted stupidly? The President acted SUPREMELY stupidly by passing judgment without knowing all the facts. Sounds to me as if he's taking speech lessons from Biden.

This smacks of a personal vendetta against the Cambridge Police. Is there anything from your Boston background you'd like to share with us Mr. President?

Dumbest President ever.

Posted by: flintston | July 23, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I can see Obamas approval ratings plummet as I type...

Posted by: dizzyguy | July 23, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Today, Obama flipped the race card out on our American poker table.

Last time an incident of this type took place was Richard Nixon declaring to our nation about Charles Manson, "guilty, directly or indirectly of eight murders." This caused quite an uproar. This behavior by Nixon could have tainted the Manson trial, possibly resulting in Manson being set free. This did cause prejudice, least under definition of law; denial of due process.

Today, Obama effectively announced the Cambridge police department guilty of racism.

Obama said of the Henry Gates arrest the police acted "stupidly." Obama was not there, Obama does not know what happened. None of us know all the details. Obama has pronounced the arresting officers, one of whom is black, guilty of racism.

All we know is Gates and another black man were attempting to break into the Gates home, a neighbor reported a burglary in progress, police responded and Gates went ballistic. We know the police remained calm and we know Gates went off on the police really bad, refused to cooperate and took to screaming, yelling and insulting the police.

Insulting the police is not a crime. However, behaving like a lunatic is probable cause for at least detention; we cannot take a chance on a lunatic running around loose. There is no doubt in my mind this nutty professor Gates did commit disorderly conduct under law.

Today, Obama took the law into his own hands. Today, Obama pronounced the Cambridge police department guilty of racism. This will have a very dire adverse effect on those police officers who responded, as is their duty, to investigate a burglary in progress.

Obama is way out of line on this just as was Richard Nixon decades back. I am now well convinced Obama is a racist and intends to keep racism alive and ugly.

An American president is to never take the law into his own hands.

Okpulot Taha
Choctaw Nation
Smart Girl Politics

Posted by: PurlGurl | July 23, 2009 3:28 AM | Report abuse

ATTENTION POTUS (c/o R. Emanuel, D. Axelrod, V. Jarrett)



"CIA Assassination Ring" a Cover Story to Shield a Nationwide American Gestapo?


• Bush-legacy extrajudicial targeting/punishment network makes a mockery of the rule of law at the grassroots -- violating civil and human rights.

President Obama has been co-opted into becoming the enabler of a federally-funded and overseen "multi-agency coordinated action" program of nationwide extrajudicial targeting and punishment...

...a vigilante Gestapo "torture matrix" that is misusing federally-funded volunteer programs to subvert the rule of law -- deploying a civilian vigilante army that covertly implants GPS tracking devices to stalk, persecute, vandalize and harass unjustly targeted citizens and their families.

This secretive multi-agency "program" also misuses government surveillance operations to censor, and maliciously tamper with, the telecommunications of many thousands of the unjustly targeted -- and funnels surveillance data to citizen "gang stalker" harassers.

An array of "programs of personal financial destruction" decimates the finances of "target" families -- contributing to economic distress. And microwave "directed energy weapons" are being used to degrade their very lives -- a gross violation of human rights, government-enabled crimes against humanity.

And no authorities will investigate -- invoking the "Gulag" tactic of dismissing those who seek justice as "delusional."

Please, Team Obama: Wake up and smell the police state that is co-opting your administration and making POTUS a pitchman and enabler for an American Gestapo.

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled): (see "stream" or "stories" list; malicious hackers have removed the story link from my main blog page.)

Posted by: scrivener50 | July 22, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

"...the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home..."

I'm really surprised to hear a president dare to say that the police acted 'stupidly'. Surprised in a good way.

And it's true. Even if the guy was unnecessarily rude, a smart cop would just be rude back, not arrest him.

For every racist cop, there are two who pick on blacks simply because you can get away with more on blacks. More infringement, more unconstitutionality, more brutality. They prey on the defenseless, and most blacks have bad lawyers or none. It's really more a class than a race thing. But they got this guy's class wrong. Which WAS stupid, considering that they knew he he owns a fancy town house in Cambridge, Mass.

Posted by: kevrobb | July 22, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

What a pig. He admits to not knowing all the facts and then proceeds in typical Ghetto fashion to blame the cops. Send this loser back to the slums!

Posted by: DCer1 | July 22, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

I think Gates racist behavior, and belligerent antics, warranted an arrest. Does being black and wealthy allow one to act a fool? Apparently in the Bos-NY-Wash corridor it does. He was photographed shouting at the police, who were trying to calm him.

Here's a different "perspective":But in Massachusetts today, police officers were raising questions about possible favoritism over the handling of disorderly conduct charges that were lodged and promptly dropped against the prominent Harvard scholar.

The incident began when Cambridge Police Sgt. Joseph Crowley responded to a call about someone apparently trying to break into Gates' home.

Crowley said Gates called him a "racist cop" after he arrived at the house and asked the Harvard professor for identification. Gates is said to have refused by saying, "No I will not."

Gates then, according to Crowley, said he was being harassed because he is a "black man in America." As the confrontation escalated, Crowley was then joined by a Hispanic Cambridge police officer and a black sergeant, according to two high-ranking law enforcement officials who have been briefed on the case and Cambridge police reports.

Gates was arrested and booked on a disorderly conduct charge.

"The actions of the Cambridge Police Department, and in particular, Sgt. Joseph Crowley, were 100 percent correct,'' said Hugh Cameron, president of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police. "He was responding to a report of two men breaking into a home. The police cannot just drive by the house and say, 'Looks like everything is OK.'

"Sgt. Crowley was carrying out his duty as a law enforcement officer protecting the property of Professor Gates and he was accused of being a racist," Cameron added. "The situation would have been over in five minutes if Professor Gates cooperated with the officer. Unfortunately, the situation we are in now is the environment police work in now."

Jim Carnell, a union representative for the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said cops are "furious at the way Crowley is being vilified."

"The officer's mindset when is going in there is, 'Why was he breaking down the door?' Maybe there is a restraining order in place. Maybe Harvard University, who owns the house, changed the locks for some reason. The officer's job is to make sure everything is on the up-and-up,'' Carnell said.

"Mr. Gates should be grateful that the police responded and explained himself with some civil discourse," Carnell added. "It would have ended there. Instead, his arrogant, combative behavior gave the cops cause to wonder that something else going on."

Obama "acted stupidly" to end a health care conference with a racist, factually incorrect rant on police.

Posted by: mmmmm999999m34e56ee91099 | July 22, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

I also happen to think he's right.

Posted by: kevrobb | July 22, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Obama has bigger cojones than I thought. No platitudes or waffle there, he calls it like he sees it.

American politicians know it's electoral hari-kari to criticise the cops. No-one can accuse Obama of poll-chasing with this response, that's for sure. It won't play in Peoria and he knows it.

Posted by: kevrobb | July 22, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't blame the President for loyalty to his friend. But he does not appear to have the facts right. It is not entirely clear what happened because multiple police were involved. If you read the arrest report, it appears that the arresting officer was not the first one on the scene. When he arrived, Dr Gates was outside and was arrested for disorderly behavior. That included accusing the police of racism and attracting the attention of a number of onlookers.
What is lacking from Dr Gates side of the equation is any empathy for the police. When the police are called to a disturbance, they don't magically understand all the factors involved. My guess as to what happened is that the original policeman had managed to verify Dr. Gates identity. But he was still trying to verify with the woman who made the initial complaint that there was no problem. At that point in time, it appears that Dr. Gates was very uncooperative. It is not clear whether he was uncooperative from the beginning or whether he just became impatient when his ID was not enough to instantly end the incident. In any case, it seems that all the arresting officer saw was Dr. Gates disorderly behavior outside his house.

Posted by: dnjake | July 22, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

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