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Vice President Joe Biden, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley and President Obama at the Rose Garden “beer summit, July 30, 2010

As voters delivered Barack Obama a historic second term on Election Day, the elegant denouement of one of the most memorable early episodes of his presidency played out almost unnoticed at a polling site in Cambridge, Mass.

A black man and a white police officer embraced and talked warmly. The black man was Henry Louis Gates Jr., the author, documentary filmmaker and Harvard scholar. The white man was James Crowley, the police sergeant who handcuffed Gates on the porch of his campus home in July 2009. The arrest was the culmination of a tense confrontation that unfolded when Crowley was dispatched to investigate after Gates and his driver were seen struggling to open the house’s front door. Prosecutors later dropped charges of disorderly conduct against Gates.

Dan Riviello, a spokesperson for the Cambridge Police, confirmed the  reunion. “They had a good conversation,” Riviello said. “Professor Gates was filming a spot for a PBS special on voting in America. Sergeant Crowley organizes the officers at polling places, so they reached out to him prior, to get his OK. They hugged and had a few words.” When asked whether Crowley showed up in person to ensure that everything went smoothly, Riviello replied,“Yes, and to see the professor.”

It wasn’t the first time that the paths of Gates and Crowley have crossed since their famous Rose Garden “beer summit” with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. “He and I have gotten to know each other and we have very friendly communication,” Gates said on NPR’s Fresh Air in July 2011. Gates told The New York Times Magazine that Crowley made a gift of the handcuffs used in the arrest during a meeting initiated by Crowley at Gates’ favorite pub in Cambridge. Gates has described the move as “a very kind, generous gesture … motivated by the spirit of reconciliation inspired by President Obama.” (Gates donated the handcuffs, which reportedly bear an etching of Crowley’s name, to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture that is expected to open at the Smithsonian in 2015.)

The president’s intervention would prove to be a rare exception to, and likely informed, his reticence to enter the fray on race-related controversies—or indeed, to mention race at all. He intensified the national focus on the case and attracted the ire of law enforcement ranks when, in answer to a reporter’s question at a primetime news conference, he said that Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates, who he identified as a friend. He would later acknowledge that he could have “calibrated those words differently.” He phoned Crowley (who was reported to have taken the call at Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub in Kendall Square) to apologize.

The White House meeting that followed apparently did much to defuse the discord that the president, in his own words, “helped contribute to ratcheting … up.”  “I began receiving hate mail and death threats after the arrest, and all that stopped after the summit,” Gates told The New York Times Style magazine in 2011. “I know that what Barack Obama did was brilliant,” he said on Fresh Air.

For years Gates has looked to genealogy for meaning, and in this episode of his life he made no exception. He told The Oprah Winfrey Show that he asked Crowley to take a DNA test and discovered that they are distant relations—both descended from a 4th-century Irish monarch. “Eight percent of the men in Ireland have our identical DNA, and we all descend from King Niall of the Nine Hostages. It was good to be the king—the guy slept with everybody in the kingdom,” he said.

Crowley, for his part, has kept a low profile. In a statement following an independent committee’s June 2010 review of the incident (which concluded that both parties missed opportunities to de-escalate the confrontation), Crowley asked for respect for his decision to put the event behind him. “I do not want my family to have to go through what they did last summer,” he said. In May, Crowley’s name appeared without fanfare on a press release listing officers and community members who were honored at a 2012 Cambridge Police awards ceremony.


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Copyright 2012 The National Memo

14 Responses to At Cambridge Polling Site, Cop And Professor Meet Again — As Friends

  1. Nice to see that people can work things out even after they may have gotten slightly out of hand. Both Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley have handled things well after the beer summit. Gives you hope that the rest of us can move on. At least those of us who are resisting working across race and class barriers. Everyone wants the same thing, some dignity, hope for their future and for their family’s. It’s not really all that hard.

    • You’ve probably heard of the black Irish. They really exist. It’s an unusual look characterized by blue eyes, fair complexion, and jet black hair. They’re all brunettes. I once knew an Irish immigrant girl who had that exact look.

  2. Voters feared ryanization phobia more than they had feared the veneral romnesia disease. Donald Trump caught both diseases at the same time. That was why he was barking like a toothless pitbull.

  3. Nice addendum to bookend the beer summit. Another example we made the right decision as a nation to give the pres the second term he deserves. And yes, he has a probably prodigious ego, but if he wishes to become a “Rushmore President”; I think he is very realistic in how he deals with his own ego and serving the American people that gave him a second term. He understands they are not mutually exclusive. To be both a transformational President and to serve as the first African American President takes equal parts self-belief and the audacity to dream big dreams, as well humility to accept the full measure of what this position in history requires.
    Obama is not perfect, as he himself admits, but imo, he tries to be the best he can be day by day, for his wife and daughters are right there serving as his conscience as well. And whatever was discussed at the beer summit, it seems Crowley and Gates also have taken the same approach to being better day by day.
    And thats all you can ask of any man in any position.

  4. this is how adults behave. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, make amends if possible, learn from it, move on; if mistake was against you, don’t hold a grudge and also move on. So refreshing to see this in all parties concerned.

    • You are so ignorant that you are pathetic. The article is about how real men act when they realize they both were wrong. Your statement shows who the racist is, it was neither prof. Gates or Sgt. Crawley, it is you.

      • Only gates was wrong and should have gone to JAIL. Crowley on the other hand was leaned on by barak and rather than call a spade a spade he decided to just let the matter go.
        Your right there were 2 racists in this story barak and gates

  5. While this may be all well and good, I fail to see how this addresses the profiling issue(s) that still exist today. So Prof. Gates just happened to be “well known” and “identified by Pres. Obama as a friend”; what about the hundreds of others who don’t happen to fit this ‘perfect picture’ of humanity? What about the ordinary person who has nothing to recommend him (or her), but the fact that they are innocent of any wrong doing? Would THEY get such attention and exoneration? I highly doubt it…they’d have most likely been found guilty of the charge of “disorderly conduct” and unjustly fined or jailed, while officer’s “word and reputation” carried the day. (And most definitely no “beer summit”.

  6. Yeah “onedonewrong”… you “done one wrong” by posting the nonsense that you post here all the time…


    1. To slobber; drool.
    2. To flow like spittle or saliva.
    3. To talk stupidly or childishly.

    1. To allow to flow from the mouth.
    2. To say (something) stupidly.

    1. Saliva flowing from the mouth.

    It seems the dictionary does have a definition for you too. 🙂

  7. From all the comments I have read and” I have been reading them”, from before and after the election. My fingers have never reached for this keyboard, but now that it is all said and done. I will admit that I was afraid of Gov. Romney becoming our 44th President. Not just for myself but for my family and the future of their family’s. I am 62yrs. old, 5 children and 9 grand children. My daughter is now 20yrs old with 2 yrs. of law school (pell grants “THANK YOU”) As a Father and Grandfather I am thankfull for all the people in my position and all the people that have been or think thay might be in my position in the future, you have given me hope, confidence, my Grandchildren will be (in their future a better life) than what could have been a 47%er if R & R would have been elected !!!!! I own a construction company and am still trying to reach for the golden ring that the Repubs think “small business'” need their help. My family and I are latinos with mixed nationality’s but that dosn’t matter because we all feel and think alike. What the repubs didn’t take into account ARE the mixed race’s that were involved in this election. Just in my family, we are 12 strong and we all voted for Obama!!!!!!! I was and my wife and daughter (who we can carry on our insurance till she is 26yrs. old) and finish law school without worrying about incidentels. What my daughter learned from this election is what I’ve been preaching for 42 years. WE THE PEOPLE can be THE PEOPLE who can tell the difference between 2 clown’s and our chosen PRESIDENT. GOD BLESS YOU P.O.D.U.S.

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