Arrested For Speaking His Mind?

by Chris Bodenner

Adam Serwer has a similar take on the Gates scandal as Conor and myself:

[Police officer] Crowley does not claim to have felt as though he was in danger, and says he believes that Gates was being truthful about it being his residence. So I don't really understand why Crowley stuck around to be yelled at, and it makes me uncomfortable that someone can simply be arrested for the crime of saying nasty things to a police officer under the auspices of "disorderly conduct." I'm not aware of the clause in the First Amendment that exempts police officers from angry criticism. Gates' reaction, if the police report is accurate, may have been inappropriate, but it was understandable, given that he was being accused of breaking into his own home. But if he was arrested simply because Crowley was angry or embarrassed at being mistreated, I don't think that's a defensible reaction.

Could any Dish readers with legal expertise shed some light on that line between free speech and verbal assault? Serwer also discusses one of the most unsettling details from the case:

What really disturbs me though, is the fact that Gates' own neighbor didn't recognize him. Regardless of who is ultimately at fault in the encounter between Gates and Sgt. Crowley, the most frightening thing is that a Harvard professor could be mistaken for a burglar by his own neighbor. I'm not ascribing malice here -- it's the nature of race that people react to it without forethought -- but the idea that a black man can be mistaken for a criminal trying to enter his own house in his own neighborhood should remind us all that we're hardly living in a post-racial paradise.