A white woman caught on video threatening to use a man’s ethnicity against him by calling New York City police to report “an African-American man threatening my life” has offered a public apology after her identity was swiftly exposed by social media users.
Amy Cooper’s brush with infamy on May 25 2020 began when she was captured on video by Christian Cooper (no relation) in The Ramble, a section of Central Park. Amy Cooper was walking with her dog off leash, a violation of park rules, when Christian Cooper apparently asked her to leash her dog.
The footage shows Amy Cooper approaching Christian Cooper, while holding the dog by its collar instead of leashing it, and asking him to stop filming her. He can be heard from behind his camera saying, “Please don’t come close to me.” Instead, she advances another step without putting the dog on its leash.
She then says she will call the police.
“Please call the cops,” he replies.
“I’m gonna tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she says, while still holding the dog by its collar. While she is on the phone, the dog can be seen struggling against her grip. During the call, she repeatedly claims, falsely, that Christian Cooper is “threatening” her and the animal. The call ends with her shouting, “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble. Please send the cops immediately.”
Christian Cooper’s Facebook post chronicling the encounter was shared thousands of times on that platform. The video spread even further when his sister, Melody Cooper, republished it on Twitter, where it received still more attention:
Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm
— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020
As the video spread, Twitter users shared posts claiming to identify Amy Cooper and identifying the investment firm Franklin Templeton as her workplace. The company confirmed Cooper’s identity without naming her in a short statement on Twitter:
We take these matters very seriously, and we do not condone racism of any kind. While we are in the process of investigating the situation, the employee involved has been put on administrative leave.
On May 26, 2020 Franklin Templeton announced in a follow-up tweet that it had terminated Cooper’s employment effective immediately.
“We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company said.
A local group, Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, said in a Facebook post that Amy Cooper had adopted the dog from them.
“As of this evening, the owner has voluntarily surrendered the dog in question to our rescue while this matter is being addressed,” the group said. “Our mission remains the health and safety of our rescued dogs. The dog is now in our rescue’s care and he is safe and in good health. We will not be responding to any further inquiries about the situation, either publicly or privately.”
In separate statements to WNBC-TV and CNN, Amy Cooper denied that she is racist while also claiming — without offering any evidence to back up her statements — that Christian Cooper was both “screaming” at her and throwing dog treats at her dog. She also told WNBC:
I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family. It was unacceptable and I humbly and fully apologize to everyone who’s seen that video, everyone that’s been offended…everyone who thinks of me in a lower light and I understand why they do. When I think about the police, I’m such a blessed person. I’ve come to realize especially today that I think of [the police] as a protection agency, and unfortunately, this has caused me to realize that there are so many people in this country that don’t have that luxury.
Critics of Amy Cooper pointed to her behavior as yet another example of white women weaponizing racial prejudice in attempting to paint a Black person as a threat to police. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described her actions as “racism, plain and simple.”
“She called the police BECAUSE he was a Black man. Even though she was the one breaking the rules,” the mayor wrote on Twitter. “She decided he was the criminal and we know why. This kind of hatred has no place in our city.”
For his part, Christian Cooper made reference to another recent instance of apparent white vigilantism in explaining why he filmed his own encounter.
“I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things,” he told CNN. “Unfortunately we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets. This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn’t having it.”
He also said that he would accept Amy Cooper’s apology if it were genuine.
“If she plans on keeping her dog on a leash in the Ramble going forward, then we have no issues with each other,” he said.
Update May 26, 2020 11:57 am PST: Updated by noting Amy Cooper’s firing by Franklin Templeton.