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Public reaction to Obama’s comments on Gates arrest

July 24, 2009

Observing the public’s reaction to Obama’s criticism of Sgt. Crowley’s choice to arrest Henry Louis Gates for disorderly conduct has been, well, disheartening.

Here are the undisputed facts:
1) Gates was inside his own home, which Crowley verified prior to arresting him.
2) Crowley arrested him for allegedly committing Disorderly Conduct.
3) One of the legal elements of Disorderly Conduct, i.e. one of the fundamental requirements for conduct to constitute the crime of disorderly conduct, is that the obnoxious/disruptive/etc. conduct occur in public.
4) Therefore, because Crowley knew that Gates was in his own private residence rather than out in public, he knew that he was arresting Gates for a crime that he was not guilty of.

So – Crowley knowingly arrested Gates for a crime that he had not committed.  Is this “stupid”? Actually, that’s kind of a nice way of describing it.  Another way of describing it is that Crowley’s action was “criminal.”  There is a crime known as “false imprisonment,” which prohibits one from unlawfully restricting another’s liberty.  Seem about on point?  I’d say so.  So, I would suggest that Obama’s description of the arrest as “stupid” was actually rather generous to Crowley and his partner, as the truth is actually quite a bit harsher. 

The really galling part of all this is the very substantial volume of citizen and commentator outcry against Obama’s criticism of this arrest.  Articles like this one are extremely disturbing as they attempt to present this arrest as facially valid (“he was charged with disorderly conduct, not trespassing, so his presence in his own home is irrelevant”); another gem is this one, which basically says “if you disrespect a cop, then you deserve whatever you get”. 

I certainly do not know with any certainty whether Crowley’s perception of the situation was racially tinged, although I do find it hard to believe that he would have approached the situation in quite the same way if Gates had been an older white man.  However, regardless of whether or not Crowley was acting as a racist, his choice to falsely arrest an innocent man is deplorable, as is the public outcry of support for him.

One Comment leave one →
  1. A. Strung permalink*
    July 24, 2009 7:09 pm

    I didn’t know you posted this. Anyway, well said. I’ll take your word for it.

    I’ve heard from Cambridgians that the cops there are “the worst”, so there you have it.

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