Henry Louis Gates Jr. demands apology, sensitivity training
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. won’t rule out a lawsuit against the city of Cambridge, insisting not only that the cop who arrested him on a disorderly charge apologize but that the entire police force submit to sensitivity training, his lawyer told the Herald yesterday.
The demands came just hours after a mutual announcement by the city and Gates that the charge was being dismissed - with agreement Thursday’s incident was “regrettable and unfortunate” but that there had been a “just resolution.” The agreement made no mention of an apology or retraining.
Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, who is representing Gates, said the scholar remains upset about what happened, however, when he was first mistaken for a burglary suspect in his own home, and then arrested after allegedly shouting accusations of racism at the police officer.
“He’s still going through the shock of what happened,” he said. “It’s not easy for anyone to get over it and pretend it didn’t happen. He is pleased the charges were dismissed and very hopeful we can work constructively to address how police conduct themselves.”
Asked whether Gates was considering a lawsuit, Ogletree said, “That is to be determined.”
“I think the first step is . . . an apology,” he said.
Sgt. James Crowley could not be reached yesterday. Cambridge police, union and city officials refused to discuss the demands.
Of the demand for sensitivity training, Ogletree said, “We just need to find a way to re-establish that regular routine of engagement and dialogue with police. I see it as an opportunity to address some of the complex issues surrounding (the case).”
Yesterday’s agreement was issued by the city after Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., recognizing the situation was escalating into a powder keg, entreated Police Commissioner Robert Haas and Gates’ attorney Walter Prince to meet and resolve their differences Monday. They did, and emerged yesterday with police recommending the charge of disorderly conduct against Gates be dropped. That led to the joint statement. Leone declined to comment last night on Gates’ apparently new demands.
Meanwhile, Ogletree, who is director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, said he had discussed the matter with local police, the Middlesex DA’s office, the governor, the mayor of Cambridge and city councilors - and said all agreed to help turn the incident into a “teaching moment.”
Before news of Gates’ demands broke, Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons said, “The incident did illustrate that Cambridge must continue finding ways to address matters of race and class in a frank, honest and productive manner.” Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick, a friend of Gates, said, “It sounds like an amicable resolution.” Patrick declined to comment on Gates’ subsequent demands, saying, “Ask him about that.”
Meanwhile, in online interviews, Gates said that claims that he was publicly yelling at Sgt. Crowley are false, and that with a bronchial infection, he was not capable of shouting, a claim repeated to the Herald by Ogletree. Crowley’s report said Gates had refused to show his ID, which Gates also has denied.
A 55-year-old neighbor who said he witnessed the incident but declined to give his name, however, said that Gates was in fact yelling loudly, as indicated by a photo taken by another neighbor.
“When police asked him for ID, Gates started yelling, ‘I’m a Harvard professor . . . You believe white women over black men. This is racial profiling.’ ”
“The police did their job,” said the neighbor. “He should be thanking them. But they shouldn’t have arrested him. He had just gotten off a 20-hour flight. He couldn’t get his door open. He got frustrated . . . They should have just said forget it.”