A New York woman has been fired from her job and had to surrender her dog after a video of her pretending to be threatened by a Black man went viral.
Christian Cooper was birdwatching in Manhattan’s Central Park on the morning of Monday, May 25 when he saw a cocker spaniel digging in the ground. The ruckus could have disturbed the birds, so he asked the dog’s owner, Amy Cooper, to put him on a leash. Owners who take their dogs into the area of the park — called The Ramble — where Cooper and the woman were are required to keep them on leashes.
Instead of restraining her animal, she called the police.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper said in a video recorded by Christian Cooper. The two are not related.
“Please call the cops,” he told her. “Please tell them whatever you’d like.”
Amy Cooper acted on her threat and told the dispatcher she was being attacked. As the call progressed, her voice became shriller and her tone urgent.
Christian Cooper told The Washington Post he felt obligated to stand up to her.
“I can be racially intimidated and kowtow to her,” he said. “I’m not going to participate in my own dehumanization.”
The avid birder thinks it’s important to confront these situations to ensure they don’t happen as often. He walks around with dog treats in case he encounters a troublesome pet.
“I don’t think there’s an African American person in America who hasn’t experienced something like this at some point,” said Christian Cooper, a science editor. “I don’t shy away from confronting the scofflaw when I see it. Otherwise, the park would be unusable — not just to us birders but to anybody who enjoys the beauty.”
While Amy Cooper was on the phone, she was clutching her dog’s collar and leash, which was wrapped around his neck. The dog appeared to be choking and tried to escape her grip. He struggled for several moments before his owner let go.
A New York Police officer eventually responded, but only a woman remained. It is unclear if the woman was Amy Cooper or not. No one was arrested or given a citation.
Christian Cooper posted the video on his Facebook page and it was shared thousands of times across different platforms. Amy Cooper was eventually identified along with her job and the rescue organization where she adopted her dog. #FireAmyCooper was a trending topic on Twitter.
“Amy Cooper made a choice. Not a mistake. Not an error in judgment,” tweeted writer Mikki Kendall. “A choice. She chose racism, fully and deliberately chose to attempt to put a Black man in harm’s way for the “offense” of asking her to obey leash laws. She was going to try to ruin his life, if not take it.”
“Amy Cooper is a personification of how white society is organized,” noted activist Bree Newsome. “She deserves to be shamed & ostracized because her conduct should not be allowed. But nothing will transform in this society until people admit that what she did is what happens in various ways everyday.”
“When I saw the Amy Cooper video, the first thing I thought of was Emmett Till… They’ve been getting away with this for centuries & it makes my chest HOT,” tweeted influencer Nayamka Roberts-Smith. “I hate it here.”
On Monday, Amy Cooper’s employer, Franklin Templeton, announced she is no longer employed with the company.
“Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately,” the firm wrote on Facebook. “We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.”
Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Inc., the rescue agency, revealed Amy Cooper surrendered her dog.
“Thank you to the concerned public for reaching out to us about a video involving a dog that was adopted from our rescue a few years ago,” the organization wrote on Facebook. “As of this evening, the owner has voluntarily surrendered the dog in question to our rescue while this matter is being addressed.”
Amy Cooper apologized for her behavior on Tuesday.
“I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way,” she told CNN. She told the outlet she was afraid because she was alone in the park.
“I think I was just scared,” Amy Cooper added. “When you’re alone in The Ramble, you don’t know what’s happening. It’s not excusable, it’s not defensible.”