Barack Obama, the man elected president
President Obama, who targeted the Cambridge, Mass., police department with his comment that one of its officers acted “stupidly” in the arrest of a black man, has a history with the department dating from his college years to as recently as the launch of his presidential campaign.
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested July 16 by Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley, who responded when a woman called police to report what she described an apparent break-in attempt.
Gates, who contends he was racially profiled, said the door of his own rented home was jammed, and he and his driver were trying to force it open. Obama responded to a question about the case at a nationally televised news conference Wednesday.
“But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry,” Obama said. “No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3 – what I think we know separate and apart from this incident – is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that’s just a fact.”
The officer reported Gates was belligerent, followed him onto the home’s front porch and screamed at him. Today, the local police officers union held a news conference to say there was no evidence the arrest was race-based.
A spokesman said Gates had it within his control to determine the outcome of the encounter with the officer by responding correctly.
Further, the president should learn the facts before jumping in with a comment, they said.
“He said the Cambridge police acted ‘stupidly,'” said a spokesman. “We think that conclusion was wrong.”
The White House already has been trying to calm down the situation, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying Obama now believes “at a certain point the situation got far out of hand.”
According to the Somerville Times in 2007, as a Harvard Law School student, Obama got 17 parking tickets during 1989-1991 from the Cambridge Police Department that he left unpaid until just weeks before he announced his bid for the presidency.
“In other words, as a practicing lawyer in Chicago, he allowed these tickets and penalties to remain unpaid; as an Illinois state senator he allowed these tickets and fines to remain unpaid; and as a United States senator he allowed these almost-two-decade-old signs of his disdain for the law to remain unpaid,” commented John LeBoutillier on Newsmax.com.
The Washington Post said two years ago that the tickets included parking without a proper permit and parking in a bus stop.
The Associated Press reported in 2007 that Obama’s “healthy stack” of parking tickets was finally paid, including late fees, “two weeks before he officially launched his presidential campaign.”
Said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for Obama’s campaign during his race to the White House, “He didn’t owe that much and what he did owe, he paid. … Many people have parking tickets and late fees.”
The White House press office did not respond to a request for a comment.
However, activist Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of BOND Action, Inc., called for Obama to apologize.
“Barack Obama was wrong to malign and insult the Cambridge police department without knowing the facts. He wasn’t there. This was a local law enforcement issue; yet Obama chose to elevate it to a national racial crisis on prime time television. Obama’s comments were racist and irresponsible. He owes the nation an apology,” said Peterson.
“Barack Obama is Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Obama’s racially tinged and bias[ed] remarks validate the hatred that many black Americans feel towards police, especially white cops. He has stirred up racial tensions and is causing deep irreparable damage to race relations in this country,” he said. “Mr. President, words have consequences. Do the right thing as a man and as president and apologize. Apologize to Sgt. James Crowley and the Cambridge Police Department. Apologize to white Americans; then apologize to black Americans for encouraging and in many cases validating their hatred of whites and police officers.”
David Holway, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, told Fox News, “What we don’t need is public safety officials across the country second-guessing themselves,” His organization represents 15,000 public safety officials around the country. The president’s alienated public safety officers across the country with his comments.”
Authorities confirm Gates was charged with disorderly conduct after police said he yelled at the white officer and accused him of being a racist. The charge later was dropped.
At the news conference, Obama was asked about Gates’ arrest. He noted that he considers Gates his friend.
On a Boston radio program, entertainer Bill Cosby said he was shocked to hear the comment from the president.
To WZLC radio, he said, “If I’m the president of the United States, I don’t care how much pressure people want to put on it about race, I’m keeping my mouth shut.”
Obama later told Nightline, “My suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have prevailed. That’s my suspicion.”
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