A white woman who got national attention last year when she called the police on a Black, gay birdwatcher is suing her former employer for firing her, calling the birdwatcher “aggressive” and saying that she “reasonably” feared for her safety. She’s accusing the investment firm of discriminating against her because she’s white and a woman.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper – aka the “Central Park Karen” – said in the viral video last year, as Chris Cooper (no relation) did not appear to be threatening her at all.
Amy Cooper was an investment banker at the firm Franklin Templeton prior to an encounter that went viral, where Chris Cooper asked her to put her dog on a leash while in New York City’s Central Park. It occurred on May 25, 2020, the same day that George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Riled up by the request, Amy Cooper threatened to call the police and say that Chris Cooper was attacking her.
And that’s exactly what she did.
Amy Cooper told the police over the phone that an African American man is “recording me and threatening me and my dog.”
Her voice then heightened, feigning terror. “Please send the cops immediately!” she screamed into the phone, before finally leashing her dog.
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
After the video went viral, her employer put her on administrative leave and then fired her. Now she’s saying that she was defamed and fired without a proper investigation because she’s white.
In her lawsuit, she says that Chris Cooper had a history of “aggressively confronting” people who let their dogs run around the park without a leash and that it was his actions that caused her “to reasonably fear” for her and her dog’s safety, even though she could be seen lifting her dog off the ground by its collar in the viral video.
She said that Franklin Templeton didn’t conduct a real investigation of the incident and only talked to her immediately after it happened when she was still “palpably distraught and fearful of her safety.”
Amy Cooper lists documents that her employer should have looked up, like a town meeting about unleashed dogs in Central Park and their “ugly” conflicts with bird-watchers or the full transcripts of her 911 calls. She accuses Franklin Templeton of calling her “racist” on social media and drawing attention to the confrontation.
According to Bloomberg Law, her lawsuit says that Franklin Templeton would have conducted a better investigation if she weren’t white or a woman.
Her suit accuses her former employer of discrimination under New York City’s human rights ordinance, defamation, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“We believe the circumstances of the situation speak for themselves and that the company responded appropriately,” Franklin Templeton said in a statement. “We will defend against these baseless claims.”
Amy Cooper faced a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an incident to police. It was dismissed this past February in a deal where she agreed to undergo five therapy sessions “focused on the ways in which Ms. Cooper could appreciate that racial identities shape our lives but we cannot use them to harm ourselves or others.”
Chris Cooper did not participate in the prosecution of Amy Cooper.
“On the one hand, she’s already paid a steep price,” he said in a statement last summer. “That’s not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on.”