A cell phone video filmed in New York’s Central Park depicting a white woman calling the police on a black man claims she was being threatened has taken social media by storm, as the public compares the situation to both Ahmaud Arbery and Emmett Till, according to CNN.
The incident began early Monday as Christian Cooper, an African American man who is an avid bird watcher, went to the Ramble, a popular bird-watching spot in the park.
Christian Cooper said he observed a woman, Amy Cooper (no relation), with her dog off-leash and told her that her dog needed to be on a leash in this part of the park to protect the birds, according to Central Park’s website.
Amy Cooper later told CNN she was walking her dog off-leash while knowing that it was against the rules but reacted with fear because Christian Cooper shouted at her, which he denies doing.
It was at this point that Christian began recording the one minute and ten second long video, which began with Amy Cooper, wearing a mask, advancing towards Christian and pulling her dog by the collar to tell him to stop recording.
“Please don’t come close to me,” Christian Cooper can be heard telling Amy Cooper as she stepped off the grass and toward Christian on the pavement.
“Sir, I’m asking you to stop recording me,” Amy Cooper said.
The two continued to stand their ground, followed by Amy Cooper beginning to say that she’s going to call the police. Then, she said to Christian, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
Christian Cooper responded calmly, saying, “Please tell them whatever you like.”
The video then showed Amy Cooper retreating onto the Ramble’s grass, still pulling her dog by the collar, talking with police dispatchers, saying, “There’s a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet.”
“He is recording me and threatening me and my dog,” she said, as her dog can be seen thrashing, trying to get free of her collar-restraint. “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble.”
Amy Cooper continued in a voice that seems strained and out of breath, saying, “Please send the cops immediately!”
Christian Cooper spoke one last time, ending the video by simply saying, “Thank you.”
By the time the NYPD arrived, both parties had left, and no arrests or summons were issued, CNN details.
After the video was shared thousands of times, with her name still trending on Twitter with 60,000 tweets over the last 24 hours, Amy Cooper came forward this morning and apologized for her behavior.
Amy Cooper told CNN she wanted to “publicly apologize to everyone.”
“I’m not a racist,” Amy Cooper said. “I did not mean to harm that man in any way,” she continued, adding that she also didn’t mean harm to the African American community.
But Christian Cooper, the African American man at whom she directed her fire, didn’t see the incident the same way.
“I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things,” Christian Cooper 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.”
Christian Cooper also told NBC New York this morning, “At some point, she decided, ‘I’m gonna play the race card,’ I guess.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the situation after seeing the video, tweeting, “The video out of Central Park is racism, plain and simple.”
“She called the police BECAUSE he was a Black man,” Mayor de Blasio’s tweet continues. “Even though she was the one breaking the rules. She decided he was the criminal and we know why.”
This Central Park incident accompanies many other racially charged viral on-camera moments and headlines seen in recent years.
On April 29, 2018, a white woman in Oakland, Ca., dubbed by twitter as “Barbeque Becky” called the police after watching a family of African Americans in a public park prepare a barbecue with what she says was the “wrong type” of grill.
Just two weeks earlier, two African-American men were arrested in a Starbucks in Philadelphia, after the barista called the police with a complaint that the men were suspiciously idling without purchasing anything, The Crime Report detailed.
“I call this new phenomenon Profiling by Proxy,” writes David A. Harris, in a paper published by Criminal Justice which The Crime Report covered in a recent report.
“White civilians, seeing African Americans in places in which the white people don’t feel the African Americans belong, summon police as their proxies, to investigate the behavior of the (to them) out-of-place and therefore suspicious blacks.”
Many on social media are also comparing this incident to the racially charged lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. Till was brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with Carolyn Bryant Donham, who was white.
It wasn’t until decades later that Bryant Donham recanted her testimony and revealed that Till had never touched, threatened, or harassed her, The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation explains.
Some Twitter users called for Amy Cooper’s arrest for calling in a false emergency, animal abuse—and some even said she should be arrested for attempted murder because of the consequences that calling the police has on African American men accused of threatening someone’s life.
In response, Amy Cooper told CNN that since the video was posted to social media, her “entire life is being destroyed right now.”
As of Tuesday morning, her employer, investment company Franklin Templeton, has placed her on administrative leave, telling the public in a tweet, “We take these matters very seriously, and we do not condone racism of any kind.”
Her dog also featured in the video has since been surrendered back to the shelter he was adopted from years earlier, at the request of the shelter. The shelter operators say this may not be permanent, but that the dog will be in their care while this situation is addressed, according to a Facebook post from the shelter, Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue Inc.
“When I think about the police, I’m such a blessed person,” Amy Cooper concluded in her public apology to NBC New York. “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.”
Additional Reading: How to Stop the ‘Third Wave’ of Racial Profiling
Andrea Cipriano, TCR Staff Writer, prepared this summary.