On Monday, May 25 Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the police on a Black birdwatcher after he requested that she leash her dog, who was allegedly ripping up plants and disrupting his birdwatching. The area of Central Park, known as the Ramble, has mandatory leashing laws that the woman disregarded.
Christian Cooper (no relation) recorded a video of part of their encounter and posted it on Facebook. The video has since been viewed more than 20 million times on Facebook and gone viral on Twitter, where #FireAmyCooper is currently trending.
“I’m taking a picture and calling the cops,” said Amy Cooper in the video, before taking out her phone to call the police. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
The incident is being pointed to as another example of white people calling the police on African Americans for ordinary activities. Others are highlighting the long and specific history of white women accusing Black men and boys of crimes that they did not commit. The fact that Cooper was comfortable calling the police despite breaking the law herself is also a particularly potent example of white privilege and entitlement.
“I don’t think there’s an African American person in America who hasn’t experienced something like this at some point,” Christian Cooper told the Washington Post in an interview.
“I’m not going to participate in my own dehumanization. I’m not going to feed into this,” he added in conversation with NBC New York. “We live in an age of Ahmaud Arbery, where Black men are gunned down because of assumptions people make about Black men, Black people, and I’m just not going to participate in that.”
The New York Police Department told CNN that neither Amy nor Christian Cooper was present when officers responded to the scene at 8:10 AM. The NYPD has made no arrests or summons at this time.
Amy Cooper has since been put on administrative leave, her employer Franklin Templeton announced on Twitter. The investment firm has launched an independent investigation into the incident and her previous conduct at work. Cooper also voluntarily surrendered her dog, Henry, to Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Inc. after being accused of animal abuse.
Amy Cooper apologized to Cooper and his family for the incident Monday evening, telling NBC New York that her “entire life is being destroyed right now.”
Despite the harm done, Christian Cooper said he is willing to accept her apology.
“I’m not interested in repercussions,” he said. “It’s unfortunate what happened. There was definitely a lapse in judgment. But she put the dog on the leash, and I don’t need to see anything else happen to her.”
Sources: CNN 5/26/2020; Huffington Post 5/26/2020; Washington Post 5/25/2020