'Move on' says arrest storm professor

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Black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates said he was ready to move on from his arrest by a white police officer and hoped to use the encounter to make the US criminal justice system fairer.

"In the end, this is not about me at all," the leading African-American studies academic said.

After a phone call from President Barack Obama urging calm in the aftermath of his arrest in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last Thursday, Prof Gates, 58, said he would accept Mr Obama's invitation to the White House for a beer with him and the arresting officer, Sgt James Crowley.

In a statement posted on The Root, a website Prof Gates oversees, the scholar said he told Mr Obama he would be happy to meet Sgt Crowley, whom he had previously accused of racism.

"I told the president that my principal regret was that all of the attention paid to his deeply supportive remarks during his press conference had distracted attention from his health care initiative," Prof Gates said.

"I am pleased that he, too, is eager to use my experience as a teaching moment, and if meeting Sgt Crowley for a beer with the president will further that end, then I would be happy to oblige."

It was a marked change in tone for Prof Gates, who in the days following his arrest gathered his legal team and said he was contemplating a lawsuit. He even vowed to make a documentary on his arrest to tie into a larger project about racial profiling.

In an email to the Boston Globe, he said: "It is time for all of us to move on and to assess what we can learn from this experience."

He later promised to do all he could so others could learn from his arrest.

"This could and should be a profound teaching moment in the history of race relations in America," Prof Gates said. "I sincerely hope that the Cambridge police department will choose to work with me towards that goal."

Sgt Crowley did not return a telephone message seeking comment yesterday.

The furore began on Monday, when word broke that Prof Gates had been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct five days earlier at the two-storey home he rents from Harvard.

Supporters called the arrest an outrageous act of racial profiling and a photograph surfaced of the handcuffed professor being escorted off his porch amid three officers.

Cambridge police dropped the disorderly conduct charge on Tuesday without apology, but calling the case "regrettable".

Mr Obama, who had said Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates, backtracked on Friday. He spoke to both Sgt Crowley and Prof Gates in separate telephone calls and declared that Sgt Crowley was a good man.

He admitted his words had been ill-chosen, but stopped short of a public apology, and invited the two men to the White House for a beer.

Three Massachusetts police unions released a joint statement shortly after Mr Obama's latest comments, saying Sgt Crowley had a friendly and meaningful conversation with the president.

"We appreciate his sincere interest and willingness to reconsider his remarks about the Cambridge Police Department," the statement said.

"It is clear to us from this conversation that the president respects police officers and the often difficult and dangerous situations we face on a daily basis."

Prof Gates added that he hoped his arrest would lead to a greater understanding about racial profiling in America.

"If my experience leads to the lessening of the occurrence of racial profiling, then I would find that enormously gratifying," Gates said on The Root.

"Because, in the end, this is not about me at all; it is about the creation of a society in which 'equal justice before law' is a lived reality."