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The Henry Louis Gates arrest, one year later

Arizona’s controversial new immigration law went into effect this weekend. Critics fear the law could enable racial profiling, though the most contentious aspect of the legislation is now on hold. On Wednesday, a federal judge issued an injunction barring state police from checking on immigration status when stopping people for suspected crimes.

As we saw last week with the Shirley Sherrod saga, race and class continue to vex Americans. In fact, we were having a similar conversation about race exactly one year ago.

On July 30, 2009, a piece of White House stage craft forever known as the “beer summit” took place. The white police officer who arrested a black Harvard professor in his home went to the White House to meet the first African-American president on the Rose Garden patio.

Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree represented the professor, Henry Louis Gates, after his arrest. Ogletree has a newly published book called “The Presumption of Guilt” about that incident and its larger implications. Need to Know’s Alison Stewart sat down with him.

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  • Mike Wolfington

    Your show has finally made it. After a fair time period, it has slowly become unwatchable. The interview by Ms. Stewart tonight was the final banality. You should quit wasting our time and money on this show and this sort of misinformation.

  • Dena

    Not one mention of Prof. Gates condescending treatment of an experience policeman. Not one mention of his elitest snobbery toward a public servant; not one mention of his failure to obey a lawful command of police; not one mention of his resisting arrest. You’ve certainly done your best to try to destroy the career of an honest for simply doing what he was paid to do. As hard as you try to make this incident all about racism, it simply was not and unfortunately for you most people know the other side of the story; this revisionism just won’t pass the smell test.

  • Dot Kostriken

    Alison: I was disappointed when you said, “Professor Gate, …the sergeant….” rendering one human superior and named, by title, the other nameless, only by job description. In the past, the races could have been reversed, would it have made it ok to treat one namelessly, the other with full titled,and name, if the nameless person were black, the caucasian a Phd?
    I believe this incident reeks of class distinction and elitism, working class, versus elite intellectual, white collar type superiority???? It was not as simple,of course, as people wouldd like to see it.

  • Jerry Matthews

    Author Ogletree applies “Presumption of Guilt” to everyone except the president, who clearly stated that he didn’t know the facts but went ahead and branded the Cambridge police as acting “stupidly” concerning the episode with his friend Professor Gates.

  • jeff

    Talk about 4 ppl that either missed the point or trying to troll. Professor Gates didn’t break one law considering he proved he lived in the house. That is a fact and you know what the police officer did act stupidly or why did they drop the charges. Tell you what let’s get the charges reinstated and let’s see who was right or wrong.

  • Terry Wheeler

    I follwed the events carefully at the time and can just about relate the issues verbatum! I have not read the Ogletree book, but it is not an unreasonable stretch to think that he may be biased!

    Fact, Professor was NOT arrested in his own house! So even if the President’s words are being spun, like we took them out of context somehow… in the Ogletree statement that he said the ‘cops acted stupidly’ and we didn’t hear,’ for arresting the Professor in his own home!’

    When the officer arrived on the scene, witnesses were waiting outside and gave the updates to the police, the officer approached an open door, which had been broken, because Gates had no key and was wandering around in the house, when the officer could see him through the opening!

    He entered the house and asked the man for indentification and Gates refused to show any form of idea and became belligerent about the officer entering his house and instead of complying with the officers request, he went to the phone and made a call… demanding someone call the police chief!

    If this was an unprovoked racial incident… with the officer having heard there were “two Black men breaking into the door”… and only seeing one… a man who was belligerent and refused to obey the officers request, then the command… he would have found hisself face down with cuffs on!

    That didn’t happen and in my eperience, the officer took a huge chance in not following procedure!

    I suspect that he made a calm judgment call, because Gates was well spoken, well dressed and dispite his unruly attitude, he is small in statute and somewhat lame!

    Gates finally did show identification and the officer immediately removed himself and walked onto the porch, down the steps and onto the sidewalk where a crowd had gathered… all the while, Gates followed him out of the house on out onto the porch, screaming at the officer, challenging him and making statements that were clearly “playing the race card”!

    The officer having asked Gates to calm down and go back into the house, as Gates followed him, the officer made a judgment call again… went back to Gates and placed him under arrest for public disturbance!

    What you don’t hear… after the arrest… is the woman who made the call, who worked nearby, was threatened and immediately went into hiding and didn’t want to be involved and didn’t want to loose her job!

    What you don’t hear is that not only did the Campus Police, but the local police and several other police organizations came to the officers defense… not only because he was a Sergeant, but the man was an instructer who taught sensitivity seminars when dealing with minoritys and students!

    President Obama got caught out there in a bad place… making assumptions about Black people and White authority and he screwed up bad! There was a room full of Blacks and Hispanics that immediately came to the officers defense!

    So Jeff, YOU may want to get your FACTS straight my good man and stop leaning on your ideology so hard and if you can’t figure out “why did they drop the charges”… all I can say to you is that YOU are “acting stupidly”!

    And I can guarantee you that Obama, Gates and Olgetree are the last ones on the planet to want to get the charges reinstated, followed quickly by the Chief of Police, the Prosecutor and at this point in the game… probably the good Sergeant himself!

    The question is… why have such a pointed interview with Olgletree… to help him sell a book?

    Is this a news show or an opinion piece? I have DVR’s this show and watched it several times now and I can tell you as an Independent, one who is well aware of the Goodman’s, as well as, the Limbaugh’s… and it is clear that this show is unapologetically Liberal, if not progressive!

    It will probably suffer from being so patently obvious, but I suppose PBS will carry it for quite some time, especially if Long Island viewers are willing to pay for it!

  • Jane

    The Gates story had nothing to do with race. The cop was doing what he was taught and did what he gets paid for. PBS as most other media bias stations made the whole episode a racist theory to keep control of their racist agenda. Seems anything said or done by an American who doesn’t agree with liberal beliefs, is labeled a racist. These accusations are quite stale and hopefully the libs can somehow, someway, get some new material.

  • Here we go again

    Just another example of how people can come in to a intersection from one side of the street and fail to consider that perhaps there is another prespective from the otherside of the street which is equally valid – Cops have a tuff job, especially in responding to domestics – Bad situation blogged to death but Gates was in his own home – presumption of innocense. This will happen 1000 times over but Prof. Gates has a legitimate claim, as does the office, as does the President – and the conflict was resolved right in front of your face.

  • Jen

    I am an African-American woman, with a very multicultural experience (if that makes any difference.) From the first time I heard this case, it struck a nerve. I agree with one of the earlier posters, this was a case about class – not race. My husband is a police officer, so I know something about protocol, and what officers do when individuals refuse to comply with requests. If I got locked out of my house and the police came by as I was trying to find another way in, I would say “thank you for your help”
    This man, as “educated” as he may like to tout himself, is basically a media hound who found his golden bone. It disgusted me, because someone with his intellect and status should stop trying to make money about being the poor underdog, and do something to actually help the people who do suffer from true classism and racism. He is a selfish pretentious egotist. He is concerned only with his own financial gain. Let’s see him donate the profits from his book (and for that matter, his show,) to a worthwhile charity. It is truly awful to see someone use the accusation of racism in a situation where it really was not an issue or debilitating to him, when hate and racism have done much more in this country than cause a professor from getting into his house without being asked “what are you doing?”
    I am the daughter of 2 PhD professors, and have a graduate degree myself. It is a disgrace to academia, and a disgrace to the civil rights movement. I really enjoy PBS programming, and actually just started watching this program, and logged on because I thought the content was worthwhile. I am disappointed to see that this story is getting anymore press. I really wish his program would be taken off the air.

  • Fairusah

    We judje differently when it does happen to one. Now i know how easy this could happen to someone like me .

  • Fairusah

    I never thought , it was possible .I had no trouble with law until this September in front of my home . I asked the code enforcer to show order to take my plants and go into my back yard. he brought two officers that told me there were here for code enforcer’s protection. after walking with them to point out the grass plants are plants and not mowing grass, I said let me get my nailgun out of the way of the yard. I was taken to jail for two days , no food (said , I refused it) and was warned of being deported. on October 4the letter from D.M.V. I as notified of warrant and not before that. I am drained with bills for jail, hospital , ambulance and now 2 criminal cases with 11 citation of code violations that same cases but different case numbers. I had asked city for help for the problem, I had dealing with same enforcer and flooding that resulted to this point. I have became citizen and came for college to usa 32 years . Making court to listen when already assumed guilty will take more than anything , when the system already on enforcer’s side.