Apparently for pissing off a Cambridge cop who responded to a burglary call. Gates had sort of broken into his own house because the key didn't work. A witness called police. Words are exchanged and Gates gets cuffed for dis con.
It's hard to overstate just how esteemed of an intellectual Harvard Professor Gates is.
If you're a police officer and run into the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research--even if he is rude to you--best to let it slide. Really.
But this arrest has as much to do with class conflict as it does with race. There's a big blue-collar/egghead divide back in what used to be my home town. I can imagine the unfortunate glee the cop felt as he locked up this big-shot intellectual. That glee is probably tempered significantly by national news coverage.
The AP story by Melissa Trujillo.
[Update: The police report is here. All charges have been dropped. And Al Sharpton chimes in. Read Gates' reply in gawker.]