Amy Cooper was nicknamed the “Central Park Karen” for calling police on a black man allegedly harassing her, but the video led to her being called racist, and her employer fired her and denounced her. Now she’s suing that employer.
I don’t think we covered this much. Only once, actually.
On May 25, 2020, the same day as the George Floyd death, Amy Cooper was with her dog in Central Park, New York City, when she called the police alleging a man (Christian Cooper, no relation) was menacing her. The man took video, as a precaution, and the video certainly suggested she was overreacting, or lying.
But it was her emphasis on the phone to police that the man was “African-American” that, particularly in the supercharged atmosphere, set the internet on fire. Melody Cooper, the sister of Christian Cooper, posted the video on Twitter
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
(video also here)
The reaction was swift, from celebrities and others. It was as big an internet pile-on as I’ve ever seen, with claims that Cooper exposed the man to possible death as a black man to be confronted by police. She was doxxed, and her employer, Franklin Templeton Investments, fired her over the incident. People tried to make her unemployable. She also had her dog taken away.
She was charged with making a false police report. The criminal charges against her were dismissed in February 2021:
“Given the issues at hand and Ms. Cooper’s lack of criminal background, we offered her, consistent with our position on many misdemeanor cases involving a first arrest, an alternative, restorative justice resolution,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi told a Manhattan judge, according to a statement provided to NPR.
The program, Illuzzi explained, is “designed not just to punish but to educate and promote community healing.”
Illuzzi said Cooper completed a total of five sessions and that her therapist described it as a “moving experience,” adding that Amy Cooper “learned a lot in their sessions together.”
Because Cooper completed the restorative justice sessions to the prosecutor’s satisfaction, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office moved to dismiss the charge.
The judge then granted a motion to dismiss, according to the District Attorney’s Office statement.
She also got her dog back:
The cocker spaniel belonging to the white woman who called police on Christian Cooper, a black man who was bird-watching in Central Park in May, has been returned to her.
“Abandoned Angels would like to express its gratitude for the outpouring of support regarding the dog that was recently placed in our custody, following release of a troubling video that was brought to our attention,” according to a statement from Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, the shelter from where Cooper adopted the dog.
The dog had been evaluated by its veterinarian, “who found that he was in good health,” the statement said. Various New York City law enforcement agencies declined to take the dog into custody, according to the shelter.
“Accordingly, and consistent with input received from law enforcement, we have now complied with the owner’s request for return of the dog,” according to the statement.
Amy Cooper now has sued her former employer, here’s the Summary from the Complaint (pdf.):
1. On May 25, 2020, Plaintiff was confronted in Central Park by Christian Cooper while walking her dog alone. This confrontation became international news as a racial flashpoint, characterized as a privileged white female “Karen” caught on video verbally abusing an African American male with no possible reason other than the color of his skin.
2. This characterization was created and nurtured, in whole or in part, by the public statements published by the Defendants to millions of people reporting that it had: a) performed a legitimate investigation into its employee and the events of May 25, 2020, b) that the legitimate investigation determined indisputably that Plaintiff was a racist, and c) that due to the results of their legitimate investigation, the Plaintiff’s employment with the Defendants was terminated.
3. Franklin Templeton’s alleged investigation and results provided legitimacy to the “Karen” story, and appeared to provide justification for those who sought the destruction of the Plaintiff’s life.
4. But the Defendants never performed an investigation into the confrontation between Plaintiff and Christian Cooper in Central Park on May 25, 2020.
5. Even a perfunctory investigation would have shown that Plaintiff did not shout at Christian Cooper or call the police from Central Park on May 25, 2020 because she was a racist–she did these things because she was alone in the park and frightened to death after being selected as the next target of Christian Cooper, an overzealous birdwatcher engaged in Central Park’s ongoing feud between birdwatchers and dog owners.
6. Christian Cooper was a birdwatcher with a history of aggressively confronting dog owners in Central Park who walked their dogs without a leash. It was Christian Cooper’s practice and intent to cause dog owners to be fearful for their safety and the safety of their dogs, and he had a history of doing so to people, including to one African American man who wrote national media stating: “when I saw that video, I thought, I cannot imagine if he approached [Plaintiff] the same way how she may have genuinely been afraid for her life.”
7. But Franklin Templeton perpetuated and legitimized the story of “Karen” vs. an innocent African American to its perceived advantage, with reckless disregard for the destruction of Plaintiff’s life in the process.
Her asserted legal claims are:
FIRST COUNT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS
Race Discrimination in Violation of § 1981
SECOND COUNT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS
Race and Gender Discrimination Under the New York State Human Rights Law
THIRD COUNT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS
Race and Gender Discrimination Under the New York City Human Rights Law
FOURTH COUNT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS
Defamation Under New York State Common Law
FIFTH COUNT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS
Defamation Per Se Under New York State Common Law
SIXTH COUNT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Under New York State Common Law
SEVENTH COUNT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS
Negligence Under New York State Common Law
How is “the internet” reacting? Pretty much as you would expect.
Amy Cooper suing because her employer noticed her racism after authorities went easy on her (in part because she was white) is basically white privilege and white fragility having a baby.
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) May 26, 2021
There is a reason why accountability is necessary. Amy Cooper was shown more grace than she deserved and has spitefully, although not surprisingly, disregarded it. She weaponized her white tears and could have gotten Christian Cooper killed.
— Stephanie Guerilus (@qsteph) May 26, 2021
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