In 1955 Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, lied about an encounter she alleged she had with Black youth Emmett Till. The lie ended in Till’s death at the age of 15. In 2020, 65 years later, Amy Cooper, another white woman, called police and lied about a Black man, Christian Cooper (no relation, although they share the same surname), threatening her in Central Park, which didn’t result in anybody’s death, but is considered a close call.

On the morning of May 26, Memorial Day, reports indicate that Christian and Amy were each in a section called The Ramble in Central Park. Christian came upon Amy and informed her of the park’s policy requiring dogs having to be on leashes.

Christian is a birdwatcher and board member of the New York City Audubon Society. He also reportedly tends to carry treats to lure dogs of the many unleashed dogs he comes across, so that he can calm them down and then ask their owners to leash them. Christian used treats to lure Amy’s dog. Amy refused to leash her cocker spaniel, named “Henry,” and that’s when Christian began recording the incident on his cellphone.

In the 69-second video that has been viewed tens of millions of times on social media, Amy comes towards Christian and asks him to stop recording as Christian asks Amy to keep her distance. While choking her dog as she grabs it by the collar, Amy says she’s calling the police and utters, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life!” After removing her face mask, as her dog struggles in pain, Amy calls police and says on the phone “I’m in The Ramble and there’s a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet, he’s recording me and threatening me and my dog.”

She repeats: “There is an African American man. I am in Central Park. He is recording me and threatening me and my dog.” In the final seconds of the video, Amy changes to a distressed louder tone and says, “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble! Please send the cops immediately.” The video was uploaded to social media that same day and by Tuesday, May 26, “Amy Cooper” was top trending on Twitter resulting in her public shaming, being fired from her job at Franklin Templeton where she was the head of Insurance Investment Solutions making a reported $170,000 a year, and forcing her to return her dog to a shelter. “Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately,” Franklin Templeton said on Twitter. “We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.”

In a statement, Amy apologized to Christian and claims she reacted “emotionally and made false assumptions” about Christian’s intentions and that she’s not a racist: “He had every right to request that I leash my dog in an area where it was required,” she said. “ 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. I hope that a few mortifying seconds in a lifetime of 40 years will not define me in his eyes and that he will accept my sincere apology.”

Christian said that dogs can ruin plants and the birds’ environment and tells people to leash their canines in the park. He said Amy was the one who incorporated race into the incident. “I had the choice of either capitulating to this racist spin she was going to try to use to alter my behavior or I could continue doing what I was doing, which was recording her behavior on my iPhone,” Christian said in one interview.

An NYPD spokesperson told the AmNews in a statement that police were called to the Central Park Ramble for a report of an assault. Upon arrival, police determined two individuals had engaged in a verbal dispute. There have been no arrests or summonses issued. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker said Amy will not likely face any charges. Assemblyman Charles Barron told the AmNews that incidents like this happen because there is no accountability and the system has allowed whites to treat Blacks this way. “People say these are small incidents but they are major disruptions,” he said. “Historically, white women have falsely accused Black men. Look at the Scottsboro Boys, the Tulsa Massacre, the Central Park Five was falsely accused by the state and Emmett Till.”

Using Black men as scapegoats for crimes is still common today. Several stories making headlines show people committing crimes using police as a weapon by reporting Black men as the culprits because they know police will act aggressively. One of the latest examples is the story of Patricia Ripley in Miami, who shoved her 9-year-old autistic son earlier this month into a canal resulting in his drowning. Reports indicate she told police two Black men abducted her son at knifepoint. Surveillance video of Ripley pushing her son in the water resulted in her being charged with murder. Mayor Bill de Blasio even chimed in on the incident saying that Amy’s racism has no place in the city. “The video out of Central Park is racism, plain and simple,” de Blasio tweeted, “She called the police BECAUSE he was a Black man. Even though she was the one breaking the rules. She decided he was the criminal and we know why.”

Harlem State Sen. Brian Benjamin said in an interview with the AmNews that the video Christian recorded was key in revealing what happened. Benjamin introduced a bill in the State Senate on Tuesday to add falsely reporting an incident to the list of hate crime eligible offenses. “I can’t even envision what consequence would have happened to Mr. Cooper if he didn’t have video of this incident,” Benjamin told the AmNews. “We need to send a message loud and clear that if you put someone’s life in danger like this, it will not be tolerated.” In a statement to the AmNews, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said Amy’s behavior was “jarring” and speaks to what many Black people are experiencing and that fact that she was so comfortable while Christian was recording. “This woman’s conduct is egregious, and lays bare a longstanding pattern of the criminalization of Black men in our so called progressive city. Like others who have filed false police reports or misused New York City’s resources I hope she is held accountable for her behavior,” Williams said.

Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Twitter that Amy’s actions were “inexcusable behavior.” “I am disgusted by these sad, racially-motivated actions,” James said. “New York is better than this and these actions won’t be tolerated here.”