Others were defending a cop performing his duties.
This latest incident spotlights a history of mistrust between police and minority communities. In May, a white New York City cop mistook a black colleague for a criminal - and shot him dead; In Oakland a transit officer fatally shot an unarmed black man in the back on New Year's day; Ryan Robertson was arrested on his way to exams at Harvard in 2003 when he yelled at a Cambridge officer who questioned whether he actually owned his BMW. It still hurts today.
"There is no scripted reaction you can have by being dehumanized by an authority figure," Robertson said.
Black mistrust of the LAPD fueled the deadly riot in 1992. Current chief William Bratton has been applauded by blacks and whites for making racial fairness the centerpiece of his reform efforts. Still there's a fine line between what some call profiling and good policing.
"We're all people trying to do a very difficult job," said Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell. "Certainly sensitivity, all aspects of sensitivity, is in the back of the officer's mind. But keeping himself and his partner and his community safe is paramount initially."
When Barack Obama was elected president there was much talk that the U.S. was becoming a post-racial society. The heated debate over this latest incident shows there's still a long way to go.
"We need to understand when race is operating at a sub-conscious level and also overtly, and I don't think we're being honest with ourselves when we try to pretend it isn't there," said Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney.
Right now we're doing a lot of talking - but is anyone listening?
White House: Obama Didn't Call Officer Stupid
Prof. Gates, Cambridge and Racial Politics
Cop Who Cuffed Gates Tried to Save NBA Pro
Cambridge Cop: Gates' Arrest by the Book
Gates Devastated by Arrest, Says Daughter
Obama: Cops Acted "Stupidly" in Professor's Arrest
Black Professor Wants Apology over Arrest
Was Professor's Arrest 'Racial Profiling'?
Gates Speaks out about His Arrest
Charges Against Harvard Scholar Dropped
Profiling Charge In Black Scholar's Arrest