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Friday, July 31, 2009

Obama hosts race row beer reunion

Obama hosts race row beer reunion

US Vice-President Joe Biden, Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Cambridge Police Sgt James Crowley and President Barack Obama drink beer and talk at the White House, 30 July 2009
Henry Louis Gates and Jim Crowley drank beer in the Rose Garden

Black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates has met the white officer who arrested him in his own home over a beer at the White House.

President Barack Obama organised the meeting between Mr Gates and Sgt Jim Crowley in a bid to defuse the race row triggered by the arrest.

As promised, the three men and Vice-President Joe Biden enjoyed a beer while they discussed the situation.

Mr Obama drew criticism when he described the arrest as "stupid".

The president said Thursday's meeting produced a "friendly, thoughtful conversation".

"I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart," he said in a statement.

"I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."

'Narratives about race'

Sgt Crowley said no one had apologised, but the meeting had been "cordial", and "we agreed to move forward".

He did not give details of what was discussed."What you had today was two gentlemen agree to disagree on a particular issue," he said.

Mr Gates said he and Sgt Crowley had been cast together as characters "in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control".

He said they should both use the opportunity "to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand".

Prof Gates was apprehended at his own home after a witness saw him apparently trying to force his way in.

He was held for disorderly conduct after allegedly accusing the arresting officer, Sgt Crowley, of racism.

This beer stunt is to make more people forget Obama's disrespect of the our police force
Grateful Free, Texas, USA

The arrest sparked a row about the treatment of ethnic minorities by police in America.

Statistics suggest that African-Americans and other minorities are more likely to be stopped by the police than white Americans.

Mr Obama commented on the incident at a televised press conference last week, saying the police had behaved "stupidly".

He was subsequently criticised for expressing opinions without being in full possession of the facts.

Ahead of the meeting in the White House Rose Garden, Mr Obama dismissed the media's naming of the meeting as a "beer summit", saying it was just "three folks having a drink at the end of the day".

He added: "It's an attempt to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved, including myself, all of whom are imperfect."

Mr Obama drank a Bud Light, Mr Gates a Sam Adams Light, Sgt Crowley a Blue Moon, and Mr Biden a non-alcoholic Buckler.


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