Amy Cooper, the woman who called the police on a Black man who was birding in Central Park last year, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer for firing her after video of the incident went viral, claiming she is a victim of racial discrimination
In her federal lawsuit, Cooper claims that her former employer, investment firm Franklin Templeton, didn’t do a full and proper investigation into the incident before terminating her, claiming it would have done so were she a different race and gender.
Amy Cooper faced enormous criticism for inviting potential police violence against a Black man during the May 25th, 2020 incident. While out in the Ramble with her unleashed dog, she encountered birder Christian Cooper (no relation), who asked her to leash her dog per park rules. When she refused, Christian Cooper started filming their exchange.
Amy Cooper said she was calling the police and told the operator, “There’s an African American threatening my life.” She repeatedly emphasized the man’s race, her voice growing more distressed as she claimed that she was in imminent danger. In a second call to 911, she falsely claimed that the man “tried to assault her,” which she admitted wasn’t true when police arrived later.
In her lawsuit, Cooper recounted the details of the incident from her perspective: she claims that she was caused “to reasonably fear” for the safety of her and her dog because Christian Cooper had a history of “aggressively confronting” dog owners who walked their pets off-leash. She said it was his “practice and intent to cause dog owners to be fearful for their safety and the safety of their dogs.”
She claims she “did not shout at Christian Cooper or call the police from Central Park because she was a racist — she did these things because she was alone in the park and frightened to death.” She adds that she has suffered extreme emotional distress and her “personal and professional life has been destroyed.”
Her lawsuit seems to contradict the apology statement she made days after the incident went viral, in which she took responsibility for the confrontation. “I reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions when, in fact, I was the one who was acting inappropriately by not having my dog on a leash,” she wrote. “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 with Chris.”
Her former employer said they stand by their decision. “We believe the circumstances of the situation speak for themselves and that the company responded appropriately. We will defend against these baseless claims,” Franklin Templeton said in a statement.
Cooper was charged with falsely reporting an incident, a misdemeanor, but had those charges dismissed after she completed a restorative justice resolution, including five sessions of therapy. However, advocates criticized that decision: “I can say with certainty that the five therapy sessions described in the media are not restorative justice by any definition,” said Mika Dashman, who founded the Restorative Justice Initiative.
Christian Cooper ultimately chose not to press charges, saying of Amy Cooper, “Any of us can make — not necessarily a racist mistake, but a mistake.”