White Woman Is Fired After Calling Police on Black Man in Central Park

The Four Percent


The incident appears to have begun as one of those banal and brusque dust-ups between two New Yorkers. A black man, an avid birder, said he had asked a white woman to leash her dog in Central Park, as the rules require. She refused.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she says to him while dialing, then repeats to the operator, twice, “African-American.”

The video, posted to Twitter on Memorial Day, has been viewed more than 30 million times, touching off intense discussions about the history of the police being falsely called on black people, sometimes putting their lives in danger.

Within 24 hours, the woman, identified as Amy Cooper (no relation to Mr. Cooper), had given up her dog, publicly apologized and been fired from her job.

The incident took place around 8:10 a.m. on Monday in the Ramble, a semi-wild section of Central Park where dogs are required to be on leashes at all times.

“Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it,” he told her, before he pulled out the treats and began filming, according to his post.

The video captures Ms. Cooper first asking Mr. Cooper to stop filming her, then saying she will call the police and claim that she is being threatened by “an African-American.”

“Please tell them whatever you like,” Mr. Cooper says off camera.

She proceeds to call.

“I’m in the Ramble, there is a man, African-American, he has a bicycle helmet and he is recording me and threatening me and my dog,” she says to the 911 operator as she grips her pet’s collar tightly.

She adds: “I am being threatened by a man in the Ramble, please send the cops immediately!”

She hangs up.

“Thank you,” Mr. Cooper says after she puts her dog on a leash, just before the video ends.

On Tuesday afternoon, he said in an interview that, “I was quite adamant that I was going to tape her as long as the scofflaw behavior was continuing,” despite the threats.

“I didn’t want to kowtow to that, I didn’t want to give it any power,” he added. “I am pretty adamant about not being a participant in my own dehumanization.”

“I am one of the few male African-Americans who birds the Ramble regularly,” he said. “And I have always been aware that if I am crawling around behind a shrub trying to catch a glimpse of that rare bird, holding a metal object in my hands, I will be perceived differently than a white man if police come across that scene.”

The police said they had responded to the report of an assault in Central Park on Monday morning.

“Upon arrival, police determined two individuals had engaged in a verbal dispute,” said Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell, a police spokeswoman. No summons were issued and there was no arrest made.

Shortly after the video was posted by Mr. Cooper’s sister on Monday, someone who said they had been the white woman’s dog walker identified her. Her name soon began trending on Twitter.

Internet sleuths digging into Ms. Cooper’s life found an Instagram profile of her dog, Henry, and began sharing old photos documenting injuries he had suffered.

She continued: “I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause and would never have imagined that I would be involved in the type of incident that occurred.”

On Monday evening, Ms. Cooper’s employer, Franklin Templeton said she had been placed on leave while the incident was being investigated.

Ms. Cooper had been a head of insurance portfolio management at Franklin Templeton, according to her LinkedIn page, and graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

On Tuesday afternoon, Franklin Templeton announced that she had been fired.

Mr. Cooper said in the interview that he had been overwhelmed by the response to his video, but that the retribution against Ms. Cooper had taken him aback.

“It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”

Ms. Cooper did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Adding to the fractiousness of the exchange are longstanding tensions between birders and dog walkers in Central Park, magnified by the fraught climate of the pandemic lockdown.

At one point, Ms. Cooper, wearing a face mask, lunges toward Mr. Cooper, a behavior that some who viewed the video have called an assault, because of the violation of social distancing rules that occurs.

But even without the pandemic and the location, the legacy of these kinds of confrontations looms large, according to Professor Katheryn Russell-Brown, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.

“It was particularly a punch in the gut for a lot of people,” Professor Russell-Brown said. “It ties into and taps into a long history of white women, in particular, falsely accusing black men of crimes that leads to great harm.”

“This is deeply offensive,” she said. “Particularly as we are in a climate writ large of the expendability of black and brown lives in the midst of Covid-19.”



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