I heard on the radio this morning that there were nine break-ins in Gates’s Cambridge neighborhood in the first quarter of 2009 alone. Officer James Crowley had good reason to believe that this might have been another. There might even have been a break-in attempt at Gates’s house during the time he was away, as Gates himself indicates in an interview. (Why is there so much crime in the neighborhood around Harvard?)
It is clear from reading the police report that Gates behaved boorishly and belligerently from the first moment he saw the white policeman. Officer Crowley, perplexed at Gates’s behavior, called into headquarters that he was in the house with what appeared to be the resident, but that the resident was behaving in an excited manner that surprised and confused him. And Gates initially refused to present identification, but then did. He continued yelling at Crowley and calling him a racist throughout the incident. It is almost as if Gates was determined to foment the incident into something he could use later. If there is any racism here, it is Gates’s automatic antagonism toward a white policeman.
The police report contains a supplemental narrative by a second policeman on the scene, Officer Carlos Figueroa, who completely corroborates Crowley’s account and adds the detail that Gates was actually shouting to the gathering of about seven people outside the house who had been attracted by the ruckus, ”this is what happens to black men in America,” almost as if he were trying to incite them. It is this ongoing disruptive behavior, which continued after Crowley warned him to stop, that prompted his arrest.
The policemen could not be making all this up. The details in Crowley’s and Figueroa’s reports about Gates’s arrogance and claims of privilege and so on — all that is not something the policemen could just fabricate. In addition, there were a number of witnesses who saw a lot of what happened and can corroborate it. Here is some of Figueroa’s account:
As I stepped in [into Gates's house], I heard Sgt. Crowley ask for the gentleman’s information which he stated “NO I WILL NOT!” The gentleman was shouting out to the Sgt. that the Sgt. was a racist and yelled that “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN America!” As the Sgt. was trying to calm the gentleman, the gentleman shouted “You don’t know who your messing with!”
I stepped out to the gather the information from the reporting person, WHALEN, LUCIA. Ms. Whalen stated to me that she saw a man wedging his shoulder into the front door as to pry the door open. As I returned to the residence, a group of onlookers were now on scene. The Sgt., along with the gentleman, were now on the porch of __ Ware Street and again he was shouting, now to the onlookers (about seven), “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN AMERICA!” The gentleman refused to listen to as to why the Cambridge Police were there. While on the porch, the gentleman refused to be cooperative and continued shouting that the Sgt. is racist police officer.
Gates also said that he couldn’t have been yelling because he had a throat problem, but witnesses heard him yelling, and there is a photo
in which he is clearly yelling. He is either not telling the truth or blinded to his own faults.
Now we have the president of the United States adding fuel to the fire without, by his own admission, even knowing the facts — two astronomically high-status blacks piling on an ordinary white policeman doing his job. Perhaps Gates deliberately made an incident out of this because he fears white-liberal guilt has been declining since the election of Obama. Perhaps he hopes to re-ignite those feelings (without which he feels discomfort at all the unearned privileges of his life). Certainly there is something odd about his practically instantaneous pronouncements that he is going to use his arrest to preach about racism and make documentaries about racial profiling and so forth. And his interview ends with his mocking any thought of a “post-racial” America and rehearsing some of the sorry statistics about black men in prison, as if they had anything to do with his own shameful and uncontrolled behavior.
Gates’s own account appears to be unreliable. He remarks in his interview that the 911 call said that two big black men were trying to break in and he called that ”the worst racial profiling I’ve ever heard of in my life,” and he laughs about it because he is only 5′7”. Now, the police report doesn’t mention two big black men, just two black males with backpacks. But if the word “big” was spoken during the 911, it might well have been by the citizen who called in the report, not the policemen. Yet Gates is trying to maintain that he is grateful for the neighborly vigilance of the woman who called 911, and that it’s only the police he despises.